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Erik Olson
          Multitalented Nigerian-born musician Baba Ken Okulolo embraced his bass guitar for a July 29 profile. See Pages Eight and Nine for a look at other Berkeley people who made the news in 2003.
Erik Olson Multitalented Nigerian-born musician Baba Ken Okulolo embraced his bass guitar for a July 29 profile. See Pages Eight and Nine for a look at other Berkeley people who made the news in 2003.


Editor’s Note

Tuesday December 30, 2003

Today’s Daily Planet marks a departure from our usual format, in which we have—save for our comics pages and year-end reviews in photographs, editorial cartoons and the BART fare hike notice—turned our pages over to you, our readers. 

When we called for your creations for our year-end edition, we had no idea of the diversity of responses we’d receive, and if your piece isn’t here, chalk it down to the need to bring in the broadest range of work possible in the limited space available. And a special thanks to all our contributors for helping us here at the Planet take some time off for the holiday. 

So sit back, relax, and enjoy. 

And may all our readers enjoy a happy, peaceful, and prosperous new year. 


Richard Brenneman 

Managing Editor

Tuesday December 30, 2003


Dana Smith and his Dog Lacey at the South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell St. at 10:30 a.m. and the West Branch, 1125 University at 2 p.m. His family show combines juggling and other circus arts and showcases the energetic show stopper, Lacey. The free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library and is recommended for children from 3 through 9 years. For further information, contact the Children’s Library, 981-6223. For information on other free library programs, check www.infopeople.org/bpl  


Tilden Nature Area New Year Open House Drop in to the Visitor Center and sip some warm cider to take the chill off. Walk through the “Story of Wildcat Creek Watershed” and see how the water cycle comes to life. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area. 525-2233. tnarea@ebparks.org  

Sick Plant Clinic UC Botanical Garden experts diagnose your plant woes the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Dr. 643-2755. www.mip.berkeley.edu/garden 


The Oakland/East Bay Chapter of the National Organization for Women meets the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Oakland YWCA, 1515 Webster St. The speaker at our January meeting will discuss Death with Dignity--End of Life Choices. For information call 287-8948. 

Berkeley Biodiesel Cooperative Orientation at 7:30 p.m. Call for location. 594-4000 ext. 777. berkeleybiodiesel@yahoo.com 

Volunteer Orientation Learn how you can help low-income working families in Alameda County claim their full income tax credits by becoming a volunteer Tax Preparer or Interpreter. No experience necessay and training is free. From 7 to 8 p.m. in Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 2, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. For more information call 238-2472. earnitkeepitsaveit.org  

Berkeley Ecological and Safe Transportation Planning Meeting at 6 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 3rd Floor, 2090 Kittredge St. imgreen03@comcast.net  

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 


Berkeley Youth Orchestra Auditions will be held during the week of Jan. 5th. To schedule an audition, please call 663-3296 or visit www.byoweb.org 

The Berkeley School Board is now accepting applications for Board Committees and Commissions. Applicants interested in representing a Board Member will find information and applications on the BUSD web site www.berkeleypublicschools.org or by contacting the Public Information Officer at 644-6320.  

City of Berkeley Commissioners Sought If you are interested in serving on a commission, applications can be downloaded from www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 

commissions/general.htm#applications or contact the City Clerk, 981-6900.  

Free Smoke Detectors for City residents and UC Berkeley students who live off-campus. Applications are available from the Environment, Health & Safety office of UC Berkeley, at any Berkeley Fire Station, or at the Fire Admin. Office located at 2100 MLK, Jr. Way. 981-5585.  

Free Energy Bill Payment Assistance The City of Berkeley has money to help low-income households pay their gas and electric bills. Contact the Energy Office at 644-8544. TDD: 981-6903.

Tuesday December 30, 2003



“Wind in the Willows” presented by The Oakland Public Theater at 3:00 at the Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. Sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library. For further information, call 981-6223.  


Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Cheryl McBride at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mimi Fox, solo guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



New Year’s Eve Day Party at noon at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $4.50 to $8.50. 642-5132. 


San Francisco Chamber Orchestra New Year’s Concert with Sally Porter Munro, mezzo-soprano, and 12-year-old Evie Chen, violin, performing the music of Handel, Hayden, Mendelssohn and Schubert at 8 p.m. and First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $20, $50 preferred seating. 415-392-4400. www.sfchamberorchestra.org 

The Top Hat Waltz Ball, from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. Music By The Brassworks Band, dance performance by “The Top Hats.” Formal dress admired but not required. This is a non-alcoholic event. All ages. Tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the door. 650-326 6265. www.FridayNightWaltz.Com 

New Year’s Eve Zapatista Party Join a Global Celebration for the 10th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising, from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Humanist Hall 390 27th St. Oakland. With live music and spoken word. Admission is $15.  

Orquesta La Moderna Tradición, New Years Eve Dance at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center 849-2572. www.lapena.org  

New Year’s Eve Bluegrass Bash with High Country, Dix Bruce and Jim Nually at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50 in advance, $23.50 at the door. 548-1761.  


New Year’s Eve Balkan Bash with Zabava, Izvorno, Anoush, Joe and Leslie, And Edessa at Ashkenaz. Cost is $18.  

525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

KGB and Sol Americano at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $12 in advance, $15 at the door. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

New Year’s Eve Soirée with Rosin Coven at 9 p.m. at 1923 Teahouse. All ages welcome. Cost is $30, children half price. Reservations required. 644-2204. justin@epicarts.org 

New Year’s Eve Revelry Latin American Style at Café de la Paz, 1600 Shattuck Ave., featuring a latin dance with Jose Roberto y Los Amigos and a dinner buffet, at 8 p.m. Cost is $65. 843-0662.  

Fourtet Jazz Quartet at 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5, midnight champagne and party favors included. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

New Year’s Eve Party with Glider performing eclectic rock, at 9 p.m. at Jupiter. Cost is $10. 848-8277. 

Nicole and the Soul Sisters at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Rhonda Benin and Soulful Strut at 9:30 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



George Pedersen, John Havord & Friends at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Keni El Lebrijano, flamenco guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Andy Summers Band at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



Moh Alileche with Les Amis Dancers at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Savant Guard at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Danny Caron at 8:30 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Cheap Suit Serenaders, roots music from the golden age of jazz, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50 in advance, $20.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Enemies, Modern Machines, Black Rice, S.H.A.T., Angry for Life at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

The Skin Divers at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  




“Network,” about a TV network that exploits a deranged ex-TV anchor’s raving and revelations about the media at 8 p.m. at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. Donation of $3-$5 requested, no one turned away. Wheelchair accessible. 540-0751. www.thelonghaul.org 


The Bay Area Poets Coalition holds an open reading, 3 to 5 p.m., West Branch Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Ave. Free. For information, call 527-9905. poetalk@aol.com 


Dubwize and Firme perform Reggae-Latin at 9:30 p.m., with DJ Spliff Skankin at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Oak, Ash & Thorn, a cappella with a British Isles flavor, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50 advance, $18.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Wayne Wallace Quartet at 8:30 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Tree Leyburn, singer-songwriter at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

D’Amphibians, Flowtilla at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082.  


Nicole McRory at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  


Himsa, To See You Broken, Assailant, Light This City at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 



Poetry Flash with Thomas Cleary and Bannie Chow at 7:30 p.m. at Cody’s Books. Donation $2. 845-7852. www.codysbooks.com  


Love Theater fundraiser for Koran Jenkins at 7 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $7-$12 sliding scale. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Rosalie Sorrels, album release celbration at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $16.50 in advance, $17.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Domingo de Rumba Participatory event for those who want to play, sing or dance, at 3:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 



Soli Deo Gloria will audition singers for a performance of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion under the direction of Artistic Director Allen Simon. Experienced singers are encouraged to apply. Audition and rehearsals will be held Monday evenings at Trinity Lutheran Church in Alameda, 1323 Central & Morton. To schedule an appointment, call 650-424-1242. For more info, please visit www.sdgloria.org 

The Toasters at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $4.  

848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

The First Conversation After the Fact

Tuesday December 30, 2003

“Ma, I wanna talk to you. 

“Josie, I’m dead.”  

“All the more reason. There’s so much we didn’t say.”  

“Come on, we talked ourselves blue in the face.”  

“Yea, but Mom, until you know you’re gonna be dead there’s so much that doesn’t get talked about.” 

“What do you want me to tell you? I can’t tell you how to live your life, although I can tell you if you don’t quit smoking you won’t have much life left.”  

“Oh, Ma....”  

“Well, you see, you only want to talk about what you want to talk about.”  

“Well, it’s just that when you were alive I didn’t talk about some things, like things that might have made you angry.....which actually was a lot.....”  

“Like what?”  

“We’ll get to that. For now I have other things to ask you.”  

“So ask.”  

“Well, after you’re dead, what did your life mean anyway?”  

“Beats me, but why is the question different after I’m dead?”  

“Well, it seemed to me that when you were still alive my thoughts about it were different. At first, what it meant in recent years was a supreme effort just to keep it that way.” 

“That’s true.”  

“But even more, I thought about all the different lives you had and I felt joy, pride, pleasure. And your difficulty and nastiness was just a part of you....a part I didn’t want to talk about because you could flare up any time.”  

“Well, life made me mad. You made me mad. You still do. Even from here I feel you never gave me enough recognition, attention. I know you had your own life, but you were a selfish brat seeking your own gratification. All your fancy degrees. I never finished high school. We couldn’t in those days.”  

“Lots of people did. That’s something I hate about you, that you always blame your failings on things outside you all the time. And I’m sick of your resentment. When I got my JD you said you earned it. What the hell did you ever do to even help, let alone earn it? You tried to stop me in every way. You told me it was stupid to go for it. You tried to borrow my tuition money (thank god I didn’t let you). You accused me of indulging my every whim. ‘Isn’t two graduate degrees enough for you?’ It was just like my piano lessons. All two of them.  

And then you said, ‘that’s all, who do you think you are? ‘ You were afraid I’d learn to play while you couldn’t.”  

“Is that the kind of thing you want to talk about?”  

“No, not just that, but those things too. When I was little I thought you were the cat’s meow. I mean you were so competent. You could get anything done. I used to listen to you on the phone and hear how you just got people to do what you wanted. I learned from you.”  

“Well that’s good so it shouldn’t have been a total loss.”  

“Don’t get smart.”  

“Well tell me a memory you liked: In fact, tell me one from every different age.”  

“Mine or yours?”  


“Okay. One I just loved was when you were 81 and living in that retirement place in Santa Rosa.” Josie raised her voice at the end as if it were a question.  

“You mean the one Bea and I were at?”  

“Yea. When I came up to visit you I sat at the table with you and Bea in that dining room and the young sycophantic waitress came over to fill your cups with tea and said ‘More tea, dearies?’ and you two just shut up because you were discussing what your respective salaries were as full time functionaries for the communist party in the ‘40s! That just slayed me.”  


“Well, on every level. She thought you were just biddies. She would have plotzed if she knew what you were talking about. What your past was. She was the biddy.”  

“Josie, she wasn’t a biddy. She was a ninny. There’s a difference.” 

“That too. That the world was smarter then too. When you were my age. That your life meant something then. This young girl was modern but empty. A future of globalized nothingness and unconsciousness.”  

“But, Josie, she was uneducated.”  

“Let me remind you, Ma, so were you.”  

“Not exactly, I didn’t go to college but I had read all of Joseph Conrad, et cetera. Not the same.”  

“True, and she never would. She was raised for McDonalds.”  

“What other level?” her mother asked.  

“Well, wondering what it was all for? I mean what did you guys accomplish anyway? I mean that’s an enormous subject in itself. What that fucking Party really was.”  

“Josie, we’ve been through that one a million times and I really don’t care to repeat it. In fact, I don’t care to remember it.”  

“That isn’t fair.”  

“Fair? To whom?”  

“To me.”  

“You. It isn’t about you.”  

“Isn’t it? It ruined my fucking life. Whadya mean it isn’t about me!”  

“How did it ruin your life? It gave you a whole lot.”  

“I know. But it cost a lot. I can’t ever join anything or believe in anything.”  

“Why the hell not? What are you talking about?”  

“God, Ma, I wouldn’t know where to start. Let’s say we start with Milan Kundera’s image of the photograph of the Party VIPs and the succeeding photograph, ...same group, with the purged guy missing from the picture. That tells the story.”  

Her mother giggled with the memory.  

“If they didn’t want to make people crazy, they should have at least left the motherfucker’s fur hat in the picture.”  

“What has that got to do with you?”  

Josie started to laugh. “That’s like Woody Allen, Ma. You remember the kid that was taken to the psychiatrist by the Jewish mother and they kept hocking him a cheinik ‘What’s bothering you?’ until he blurts out ‘The cosmos is shrinking’ and the Jewish mother says, ‘So what’s that got to do with you?’”  

“That I get,” Lizzie said to her daughter, “But what’s the commissar’s missing fur hat got to do with you? That I don’t get.”  

“How can you fuck with reality and say ‘What’s that got to do with you’? Ma, it’s like the time when I was 10 and I asked you how you could be so sure that Beria was guilty and the Rosenbergs were innocent and you slapped my face in front of all the company.”  

“I’m sorry I did that. That wasn’t right. I was just trying to prevent trouble but I really was very proud of you.”  

“You know, Ma, I knew that. Somehow I knew that and it saved my life, my sanity. But I also knew at that moment that you, we, were living in a dictatorship—you were being told what to think. What was right and what was wrong. By a committee. It made me cry.”  

“Is that why you cried! All those years I thought you cried because I hit you and I was so sorry.”  

“Better you should have been sorry that you and your Party were trying to fuck with my head.”  

“Nobody could fuck with your head. You were so headstrong. I guess now that I look back on it, that was a damned good thing.”  

“But it was a lot of pain for me. I remember how painful it was when I started to read things that made me understand what The Party was all about. I still remember sitting in the yard in Venice Beach at the age of 20 reading The God That Failed and seeing in print for the first time what that shit really did to people. Reading Gide’s saying that the ordinary Soviets ratted on their neighbors if they wore clothing better than their situation allowed. They’d turn each other in. And I had just read The Counterfeiters and loved and trusted Gide and knew it was true.”  

“Yeah, and you called me and blamed me after every god damned book you read.”  

“I wasn’t blaming you. I was trying to figure it out.”  

“It sounded like blame to me when you asked me if I had been unconscious in the ‘30s.”  

“I remember that. That was when I read the book about American Communism in the ‘30s by that Emory U. guy. I was shocked.”  

“Why were you shocked? You were shocked by every thing you read. You were shocked by Orwell’s Homage To Catalan.” 

“Yea, but Ma, shocking as that was, it was over there. I mean they were shooting people in the back, but it was in Spain. It’s harder to take when it’s in Brooklyn. I mean you guys were doing that right on Broadway and 72nd Street. Right in front of the IRT!”  

“Oh, come on, Josie, “nobody ever shot anybody on 72nd Street.”  

Josie laughed as if her mother meant they did it on 27th Street, but laughed with a shudder of recognition. They probably did. (Even if her mother didn’t know about it. After all, she didn’t know that Whitaker Chambers and Alger Hiss were passing secrets to the Soviets.) 

And even if they didn’t do it with a bullet, they sure did it in other ways. 

But Lizzie cut her off with, “Listen, kid, if that’s what you want to talk about now that I’m dead, I’m ringing off. I don’t want to talk about that any more. You were supposed to tell me a memory from lots of different ages. Yours or mine. So get off the Party and tell me something else.”  

“Well, okay for now, but it’s not done with.”  

“Awright, save it. As you used to say, ‘tell me a story’.”  

“Well, can I tell you what I didn’t like too?”  

“If you must.”  

“I just can’t understand what you became. I don’t even know when it began. But by the time you died you were this white-haired old lady in a retirement village buying gold jewelry (where the hell were you going? To the dining room?). Looking like Nordstroms and pushing away every new idea or anything that disturbed your peace. I tried to give you some slack—to understand that you had had enough of the world. But I could not find you. I didn’t know who you were anymore. You seemed disturbed by young people. By anything sexual. By...”  

“Oh, you and your sex all the time. To be ‘turned on’ as you always call it. What a thing to look for! What’s so damned important about sex? I never understood you. Couldn’t you have just masturbated?”  

“Well, Ma, you’re right. I probably would have met a better class of people that way.”  

“You sure would. God, the creeps you brought around. That Jack or Zack, whatever his name was. The only thing he ever did for you was to buy you a ring.”  

“Yeah, I used to tell him it was the only thing he ever gave me that I didn’t have to take to the gynecologist.”  

“Josie, that’s disgusting.”  

“But true. But then, now that you’re dead let me ask you. What kind of creeps did you have?”  

“At least I married them.”  

“Well that was pretty stupid of you, wouldn’t you say? Besides, that was just a matter of fashion. Wasn’t it? I mean you wouldn’t have today.”  

“Well, if you had married yours I wouldn’t have had to make up stories all the time to cover.”  

“You didn’t have to,” Josie said. “That was your mishegoss.” 

“Well, whatever. You always wanted to judge the world from your time, your standpoint. I had my world too. And it mattered there. And I’m tired of talking now. You’re too demanding and I have to go.”  

“Go where? Where are you anyway, Mom?”  

“I’m dead.”  

“I know, but where is that? Are you up there or down there?”  

“Up where or down where? You mean in heaven or hell?”  

“I guess so.”  

“That’s a toughie. It depends on how I’m feeling about you at the moment. Well, we’ll talk about that another time. I’m tired of you and I have to go now.” 

“Go where? Where are you? What goes on after death?”  

“We’re not allowed to tell you that.”  

“Why not? Another Communist Party?”  

“No and just because.”  

“Is it for our benefit? At least supposedly?”  

“I can’t say. Go live your life. We’ll talk more later.”  



“How will I find you? What am I supposed to do, feel your aura or something? Light a yahrzeit candle? Hold an object of yours? What?”  

“Just call me when you want. If I wanna talk, we’ll talk.”  

“It’s like calling God. It’s not like I know your telephone number you know.”  

“You can call God too if you want. Remember, by us it’s a local call.” 

“That’s a weird remark coming from you. The lifelong atheist.”  

“I wasn’t an atheist. I was an agnostic.”  

“That’s news to me. When did that happen?”  

“I don’t know. No certain time. Gradually. Maybe my eighties.”  

“You mean when you thought you might die soon and didn’t want to?”  

“Maybe,” she said.  

“What was it? An insurance policy or something? Getting straight with the man upstairs?”  

“Don’t get smart. Wait, you’re in your fifties now. Wait, you’ll see. Different things for different times.”  


“Listen, I gotta go. We’ll talk more later. Just call me.”  

“Okay. Bye, Ma.”  

“Bye. Zei gezunt.”  





Two Inspiring Exhibitions Closing After New Year’s

Tuesday December 30, 2003

On a cool, sunny afternoon last week, I took a break from the political obscenity choking our country to visit two museums in downtown Oakland, catching a pair of important shows you can only see through New Year’s Eve. 

My first stop, two blocks from the 12th Street BART station, was the African-American Museum and Library, at 659 14th St. Occupying a former Carnegie Library, this splendid building, with its soft wood paneling, spacious rooms, and natural light streaming in through wide windows, offers reason enough for a visit. 

Up its stately staircase to the upper floor are the pair of shows which will disappear after Wednesday. 

The first, “The Long Walk to Freedom,” displays photographs, archival materials, quotes, and an interactive DVD, all highlighting the contributions of 28 civil rights activists from the 1960s. 

My original motivation for seeing this show was the hope that I might see someone I’d recognize from my year in Mississippi and Alabama in 1967-68 writing for a civil rights newspaper, but no such luck. Instead, I was treated with mostly unfamiliar figures, less iconic than Malcolm, King, Parks, and Carmichael, women and men, black and white, Chicano and Japanese-American, who are still active four decades later in social justices issues. 

Each person is given a five-foot-tall panel, complete with then-and-now photos and capsulated histories. According the museum’s website, 15 of the 28 are from the Bay Area, but I recognized only Cecil Williams, Phil Hutchins, and Carlos Munoz, and Andrew Goodman’s name because his mother, Carolyn, has carried on her son’s work after he and two other civil rights workers were murdered, with the complicity of the local police, in Philadelphia, Miss., during that momentous Freedom Summer of 1964. 

As backdrops to the panels are huge blowups of civil rights marches and demonstrations, close-up aerial views that zoom you right into the action—the 1963 mass March on Washington, a sit-in at a lunch counter, the 55-mile protest walk from Selma to Montgomery. I know the mileage from the many times I drove that route to see films in Montgomery, I was that desperate to get out of Selma, which had not a single movie house. One caveat: all the photos in this show are fine, but they’re not there as art but as information. 

That’s not the case with the other show, across the hall from the civil rights exhibit, “Walls of Heritage/Walls of Pride,” striking reproductions of multicultural murals. Most of the actual murals are located in Los Angeles, some are in Chicago, and a few are in the Bay Area, like the one at the 16th and Mission BART station by Daniel Galvez. It takes some time to see all the details of these brightly colored and politically driven works, notably by Patricia A. Montgomery and Patricia Rodriguez, whose murals affirm their African-American and Chicana cultures. 

I didn’t recognize their names or the others in the show—Arthur F. Mathews, Hale Woodruff, Charles White, William Walker, Elliott Pinkney, and Noni Olabsi—all listed in a brochure on the muralists. Strangely, there’s no mention of the names of the civil rights activists in a brochure, a flyer, or even the museum’s website. 

Inspired by these two shows, I decided to continue down 14th St. and cross the freeway to visit the Ebony Museum of Arts. Just a few blocks from downtown Oakland, I found myself in an entirely different world, a wide, tree-lined street of residential homes and modern apartment buildings, before I reached the green expanse of Lowell Park just across from the museum. 

A continent apart from the African-American Museum, literally and figuratively, the Ebony Museum is housed in an old, gated Victorian, its three floors of small rooms crammed with artifacts celebratory of pre-colonial cultures. Aissatoui Avola Vernita, the petite, elderly artist, curator, and resident of the museum, gave me a tour of her private collection of African art and antiquities, including shields and masks of cowrie shells and intricately beaded crowns, most from Ghana, Congo, and Nigeria. 

Up a narrow, circling metal staircase to the attic floor, I gazed in wonder at Vernita’s Soul Food collection, which she collaged from dried vegetables and bones, her Black Degradation Art collection, and a room strewn with all sizes and variety of black dolls. 

The shows at the African-American Museum and Library, at 659 14th St., ends tomorrow [Wednesday, Dec. 31] Hours: Noon to 5:30. For information, call 637-0198 or see www.oaklandlibrary.org/AAMLO/AAMLOpresents.html The displays at the Ebony Museum of Arts, 1034 14th St., are permanent—Tues.-Sat., 11a.m. to 6 p.m. (763-0141); call for appointment or group tours.

Reflections on a Warbler

Tuesday December 30, 2003

Children, the earth is tilted, and that explains so much. Now in December, the days are short and the sun is low. Most living creatures have biological clocks that adjust to these changes, and I don’t think the seasons would bother us if they didn’t carry the holidays with them. 

I’ve been reading a book called Living on the Wind about migrating birds and it is these seasonal changes in light that prompt birds to migrate, whether that means traveling down a mountainside or flying all the way from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego. There isn’t a square mile of this hemisphere that isn’t traversed by migrating birds, and yet we don’t often see them because many travel at night. 

I know they don’t have much choice in the matter, but I can’t help admiring these birds, especially the small ones that could easily be mailed with one postage stamp. Anna’s hummingbird, a permanent resident of California, doesn’t migrate, but there is an eastern hummingbird that flies all the way to the Yucatan, and a small yellow bird, the Prothonotary Warbler, that leaves its nest in Ohio and flies to Central America. This warbler, which weighs half an ounce, gains four or five grams of weight to fuel its 600-mile flight over the Gulf of Mexico. 

Flapping its wings many times a second, it can make a nonstop flight in 15 hours, but should it meet a squall or a headwind, it may either fall into the sea or land along the coast to refuel. If all goes well, the warbler returns in April even to the same hole in a tree it left at the end of August. 

In this, birds are more fortunate than Monarch butterflies who don’t get to complete their long migration in person. When birders who net birds and bind their legs to follow their progress find they are catching the same bird at their refuge on the coast of Alabama, they know it is probably an older bird that has made the round trip several times and now no longer has the strength to make it home. 

If only we could be as indifferent as birds are to national boundaries. Storks are familiar in Europe, where they roost on the chimneys of Yugoslavian farmhouses or hang out summer nights on the back streets of Amsterdam, yet the majority of their days are spent in Africa. What we call the Kentucky Oriole spends all but four months in Central America. In the Yucatan, the author saw a tropical Bribri tree filled with Baltimore Orioles. 

When our barn swallow arrives in Argentina, its called La Golondrina Tijerita, or little scissor-tailed swallow. But many birds do make their nests here, and thus we worry about them as we do our own children, who only spend the first part of their lives with us. 

And we need to worry about migrating birds. Their nesting grounds in this country are threatened by development and their winter homes are sometimes cut down or poisoned. The author tells of hawks dying in great numbers when farmers in Argentina sprayed their sunflower seeds with pesticide to keep off grasshoppers. If the farmer had just a little patience, the hawks would have eaten the grasshoppers and lived to eat them another year. 

Patience might also keep farmers in Central America from cutting down the forest to plant coffee fields. Coffee will grow under a forest canopy, and I realized after reading this book that we should drink shade-grown coffee not because it tastes any different but because it accommodates the birds. 

Luckily, there are a lot of people who are concerned about birds. Every winter birders volunteer for the annual count. Even if you aren’t a counter, it’s a good time to go outside and look around. Just when our houses are becoming crowded with people and things, the woods are becoming more spare. The mushrooms are up and if you lie on the ground you can see the forest of stems underneath the colonies. Most leaves are gone and it’s a good time for viewing stems and berries and the small birds that are either visiting or here all year round. I suggest that you take a walk and enjoy the tilt of the earth as the birds do without burdening the overworked postal service. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Teacher is the pseudonym of an educator with considerable experience in the public school system.

BART Ups Rates

Matthew Artz
Tuesday December 30, 2003

BART rings in the new year with extended service for holiday celebrants followed by a 10 percent system-wide fare hike—the agency’s second consecutive January price increase, with this year’s boost twice the rate of last year’s. 

For New Year’s revelers, BART trains will run until 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, with new fares starting five hours later. 

Starting at 8 a.m., a one-way ticket from Downtown Berkeley to Embarcadero Station jumps from $2.85 to $3.05. The minimum fare will increase from $1.15 to $1.25. 

The price hikes—announced in May—will help slash the $38.8 million operating deficit that BART spokesperson Mike Healy blamed on rising health care and energy costs coupled with a decline in ridership and sales tax revenues. BART has officially ruled out future fare hikes for 2004 and 2005, he said. 

—Matthew Artz

Last Cash: A True Story

By Cheryl Howe
Tuesday December 30, 2003

The holidays are an unusual time of the year. They invoke many different memories. For many people this is their favorite time of year. Times of Christmas past are remembered fondly. It is a time for family and friends. But for one homeless woman, the memories are bittersweet. 

She had been saving her money for months. Each week she put aside a small portion from her unemployment checks that she received. Illness and a difficult job market had hindered her from finding another job, although she was still trying. She lived in a shelter and had no real family here. She needed medical care that was not covered by Medical. In spite of these conditions, this woman was determined that her life would move in a new direction. 

She went to the bank to cash her latest check. This would help pay bills and be tucked away with the rest of her savings. 

She then made a fatal mistake. She put all her money in one envelope. 

Inadvertently, she dropped the money in the bank and when she realized what she had done, ran back to the bank only to discover her money was gone. 

The bank manager told her that he could only take her name and number and hope for the best. When the homeless woman asked the banker if he could view the video tape from the cameras placed around the bank to find out what had happened, he said it was impossible to do so without giving away vital security information. She told the manager that she was homeless and that it took her such a long time to save the money. He said there was nothing else he could do. The money was lost forever. 

She thought about filing a police report, but what good would it do? She was homeless and was afraid of the prejudice she might encounter. She felt like a fool anyway. How could she be so careless? It served her right. Now she had to start all over again. With a sigh of defeat, she left the bank.


Tuesday December 30, 2003

come and see me on the street corner 

down here in west berkeley 

see me howling in grief rage pain 

i don’t know what all my howling is 

because my grief rage pain blind me 

naked in my filthy matted dreadlocks 


yet we have had a marvelous symbiosis 

the black cashmere rising academic 

and the fallen silenced poet naked 

howling in grief rage pain 


the burnished panels and the discreetly 

deferential colleagues 

and the naked filthy one alone on the 

street corner, invisible to all who pass, 


joined through the years by grace, and love, 

and our children, and an enduring curiosity. . . 


Berkeley, August 1999

A Coffee Shop Encounter Poses Possibilities

By Donna Cummings
Tuesday December 30, 2003

You are just finishing your daily two-mile walk. Along the way you talked to and petted two cats and watched as a third ran up a driveway after spying on you. The three make you smile. Peet’s is just up the way, where you’ll have your first cup of morning coffee. The Berkeley Daily Planets are in a rack in front of the post office, and you grab one before entering the coffee shop. 

Your later-than-usual start this morning means that most of the regulars—about a half dozen men in their mid-forties to early seventies—have already departed. You are the only woman among the regulars. Some mornings you quietly sip from your cup and read the paper, occasionally looking out at the traffic and passersby. On other days you join in the conversation already in progress or have a quiet conversation with the man next to you. 

You’re not sure that anyone even knows your name, or if they do, that they remember it, but after three years you recognize Howard, Joe, Barry, Rick and David. We come together shoulder to shoulder, on the days we’re are all here at the same time, and then disperse to our various loves. 

The man you are sitting next to today, name unknown to you, is a semiregular. He admits to patronizing Starbucks, where they have a bathroom, when Peet’s counter is too crowded. We each say “Hi,” and then apropos of nothing, he asks, “Do you live alone?” 


“How long?” 

“Since my husband died in 1992.” 

“My wife died in 1996.” 

From his questions you wonder if he is interested. You are seldom asked personal questions at your age, though you’re usually flattered, but not in the least interested. Since retiring, you’ve found the fit of single life as comfortable as going without a bra and panties. 

He’s a nice looking man about your age, with a trim gray beard and short hair topped with a faded blue-green beret. So, you tell yourself, as we are the only two here today and he is a widower, it is conceivable that he is using the opportunity to get to know you. And then, as if he can read your mind he says, “I’m married.” 

Since the statement needs no rebuttal, you remain silent and slightly confused. 

“We don’t live together.” 

You are out of the loop, and know you are, so could it be this is the 21st century line that replaces “My wife doesn’t understand me?” Trying to figure out where the conversation is going isn’t clear, and all that comes to mind to say is “How’s it working out?” 

“It isn’t. We’re getting divorced.” 

You say you’re sorry and add, “How long were you married?” 

“Three years. The problem is that she lived alone for too many years before we married. She’s too independent.” 

Nothing like several jolts of Peet’s coffee to activate your brain. You see the reason now for his blunt opening questions. Beware the independent woman! 

He offers you a section of his Chronicle, but you decline, having read it before your walk. You swallow the last of your coffee and fold the unread Planet to take it home. As you slide off your stool you smile and say, “Good luck,” and walk out the door. By the time you reach the stop light at Marin, you are smiling to yourself. You are newly invigorated from exercise, coffee and a conversation that wasn’t the usual rehashing of politics and the grave war. 

Maybe next time you see him you’ll ask his name. 

Or not. 




By Harvey Sherback
Tuesday December 30, 2003

The other day I was feeling a little insecure so I decided to shake off my blues by taking a walk and picking up a few things at the drug store. 

While browsing in the pharmacy’s magazine section, I happened to look up and see this beautiful woman with the word SECURITY written across the back of her jacket in big yellow letters. I couldn’t believe my eyes! 

I went over to her and said, “Excuse me, do you mind if I ask a small favor of you? I’m feeling a wee bit insecure and what I need is a big hug. Since you have SECURITY written all over you, I thought it wouldn’t be out of place to ask for one.” 

Well you can guess what happened next. She called over this huge guy who had SECURITY written all over him too, and they both gave me really big hugs. 

The next time you’re shopping, just call for security. It sure works for me. 


This copyrighted excerpt is featured in Berkeley writer Sherback’s self-published A Collection of Short Reads, available through Barnes & Noble and at amazon.com.

Wearing Purple

Tuesday December 30, 2003

I really know better than to stare at my fellow BART passengers, but the couple diagonally across the aisle riveted by attention. The only thing we had in common was our longevity, but it was our difference in style that triggered a wistfulness in my soul. I felt to white-sliced-bread as I looked at them. 

The woman was all in purple—tight knit top, pants, shoulder bag, shoes. Only the socks were black. Her long thin hair, colored an optimistic shade of yellow and flowing down her right breast, seemed a glamorous contradiction to her chunky, cheerful, matter-of-fact persona. 

She seemed oblivious to my attention as she focused on her fit-looking male companion whose style mirrored the ‘60s: embroidered work shirt, jeans cinched with a silver-buckled wide belt and worn work boots. His long gray hair hung in a tidy pony tail. 

Such a pang of envy engulfed me as I fantasized their exciting lives—jazz concerts, political demonstrations, square dancing. Were they vegans? I wondered. Did they grow pot? Sleep naked? 

My reveries ended when the train reached Powell Street station. The man rose and offered his companion his arm. She reached for a white staff that had been tucked out of sight and the moved smoothly out the door. 

Once again, I reminded myself, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”

Entertaining Necklace Thoughts

Tuesday December 30, 2003

I’m not a small and delicate person—never have been; except perhaps once as a 10-year-old in seventh grade when I was described as “tiny Maya Elmer” in some local school paper. Since those years I am now tall enough, sized-large enough, and always daring enough to collect necklaces which are never modest. Rather conservatively flamboyant. That’s why I have never owned that supposedly elegant string of pearls which rests on the bosom of a cashmere sweater or encircles elitists’ and socialites’ necks. In fact, notice that their dress necklines are always rounded just to accommodate such jewels. Barbara Bush isn’t the only one; there is Nancy, and Mamie before her. Does that say something about Republican women? No; I recall Lady Bird Johnson wore pearls years ago, too. Discreet ostentatiousness, if I may coin an oxymoron; “conservatively flamboyant,” doesn’t count.  

On TV these days I always notice the necklines and jewelry of female anchors and reporters; their model is the v-necked suit with a contrasting v-necked blouse or a modest straight-line underblouse AND a chain in the middle of which sits a small, unobtrusive diamond or other jewel. See Samantha Mohr on KPIX weather, or Susie Gerab on Nightly Business Review. See for yourself... 

So, while I am neckline watching, I also note the collar-and-ties of male announcers and hosts. Wow! Are they all in the old-boy, down east all over patterned style; unless they have opted for the red—or orange—tie. Blue shirt, of course. But if the man has a position in the Silicon Valley tech business, he dispenses with ties altogether. I admire the occasional guest on the Lehrer News Show—usually a Midwest intellectual prof from the University of Chicago economics department who dares to show up tieless and with open collar. 

Robert Redfern from Hollywood, an indie film producer and renegade in his own way always does the same. Guess they have Bill Gates to thank for that: he broke the mold years before his legal troubles began.  

My favorite necklace is so spectacular and different that I rarely wear it myself, only because I have to carefully coordinate either its color or style. Also I have to be in my “display” mode. Dollar-sized ovals of quarter inch carnelian (a red-orange semi-precious stone) are raised and centered on antique hollow, three dimensional  

silver medallions about two inches wide, washed with a light gold finish. Four of these medallions alternate with four large oval inch wide silver-looking globes. It doesn’t look heavy, nor is it. The eye focuses on another such carnelian medallion, larger than the rest which drops down in mid-center ending with a small bell. 

Today, to church I wear it on top of a buttercup yellow wool coat dress; and sure enough, friends and strangers smile and comment. 

My part of the story goes this way.  

I splash across the puddles in downtown Berkeley, in the winter of January of 1989, aiming east on University Avenue (towards the campus central entrance) for Copy Central. An Indian restaurant anchors the corner at Shattuck Avenue, the major intersection of Berkeley. Next door a new ethnic store is trying to lure the customers with a splashy window display. So I slow my footsteps to see what it has to offer. There in the center gleams the star piece I have just described; I am mentally ambushed by its uniqueness. There’s no way I can pass that up with just a glance.  

The Middle Eastern clerk greets me, “Good afternoon.” I respond, “Hello.” But I look over his stock, peering into shelves before I finally ask about the necklace. I am amazed when he tells me it is from Turkmenistan. I probe further. “How did that get here?” He mentions that it is one of his family heirlooms: he is trying to get a business started here. Most of the rest of his stock is trite Indian imports. 

“How much is it?” I ask, after all the admiring amenities have been exchanged. 

He doesn’t blink an eye; but I do: Four hundred dollars !!! I look at it and cannot imagine paying that much for a necklace which rattles and clanks, though ever so gently. Could it have decorated a sheik’s camel?  

“I’ll have to think about it,” and I turn to leave the shop. But the clerk persists. “Oh you can return it if you don’t like it.” He wouldn’t let me go that easily: “No, now take it with you.” 

Doubt still trickled in the corners of my desire. 

But there is more. Christmas has come and gone by a few months. Last October I meet my new-found friend through a Date Game plan. In November we are still seeing each other. By December and the Christmas season we are serious; but I’m not committed. I tell him, “I want nothing practical—but something beautiful.”  

“Beautiful?” He responds; “I know that beauty in artifacts is relative to prior experience and contacts! All I can do is test the boundaries.” 

What he means is that it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I hadn’t yet learned that he really needs to quantify things, time, the earth. 

“You will know,” I smile and continue, “Just imagine what I might find beautiful.”  


Christmas Day I open a large flat silver box, lavishly ribboned and bowed. A package from Nordstroms, my gift from Jan. I slide off the ribbons, pull back the tissue paper: and they are indeed beautiful: two—not one—fine silk, printed, designer blouses. I am taken aback, I gasp at their sheerness, the feel of luxury. 

Then I look at the sizes. How very astute he is in the ways of gifts for women; or showing utter disregard of me. It could have been flattery. I choose to consider it a matter of expediency which I admire...: 

But they were both size 12!!  

The ball is now in my corner. He has given me something beautiful.  

So of course, I drive over to Corte Madera where he has purchased them to return them for my size. I should have known: the Designer-Vogue department doesn’t carry size 16’s. So I just decide to return them for credit to my Visa account. I watch the clerk as she fiddles with the tags, looks up some data—and then hands me a credit slip for—$200. Now I gasp again internally! The conversation with the clerk ends when she says, “Oh’ you’ll have no problem spending that here. I know I wouldn’t.”  

* * *  

So now I find myself on University Avenue looking at a beautiful antique necklace already half-paid for.  


Open Borders

Tuesday December 30, 2003

Inspired by the Anti-War movement 


Time is up 

the borders are open 

we look up 

wonderful beings rushing through 

open borders 

Time is up 

the globe is alive with  

people moving in tandem 

Time is up 

the globe is singing in unison 

Time is up 

promoters of injustice and pain 

no more violence 

save the children 

no more war in my name 

Time is up 

peace in our name

A Little Toot of the Horn

By R. Sorenson
Tuesday December 30, 2003

Ten minutes into my drive on the Richmond Parkway, on a day with promise in spite of the faint drizzle, I slow down for a traffic light and stop behind a dark dented sedan. The light turns green but the sedan doesn’t move. The back window is opaque, and I can see no one inside. Is the driver ill, I wonder? I hesitate, then tap my horn just once. The driver creeps forward, and I swing around him, barely registering the dark stocking hat and the scowl as I pass. Happy to be unimpeded in the light traffic, I focus on the road until I notice something zooming up behind me. The dark sedan is veering into my lane, nearly kissing my gas cap with the handle of the driver’s door. 

For the first time since leaving the house this morning, I’m aware that I have a stomach and that it can twitch wildly when provoked. At times like this when my heart beats fast and my hands grow cold, I worry that my decades-old cardiac stent will fail. 

I race to the turnoff for the Richmond-San Rafael bridge and am greeted by the horror of the left-turn arrow changing from green, to yellow, to red. My eyes, my primitive sentries, dart back and forth between the red arrow and the rearview mirror. The sedan has stopped two feet behind me. I cannot make out the features of the driver, but watch as he slowly leans over toward his glove compartment. The left arrow is still red. I don’t care. I step on the gas and race up the ramp heading toward the bridge. The sedan is coming on strong. 

One goddamned honk! Is this how my life will end? Over one little honk?  

Obviously one honk too many for a member of that sub-species known as hypermasculinist extremist who is following me. By the time I reach the toll booth I am trembling and nauseous. He pulls into the booth next to mine, and I reach up and rub my chest, finally taking a breath. Keeping my eye on him, I smooth out each dollar bill and hand them to the toll-taker as though I were a child forced to part with her last two cookies, then ask for a receipt. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him get behind me again. He leaves the toll booth and joins the line of cars crossing the bridge. The man at my booth hands me a receipt, and I maneuver over into the right-hand lane. The sedan is several cars ahead of me, and soon I lose sight of it. I shudder when I realize I could have been toast. Just like that! My friends would wail, “Why her?” The answer comes to me as I begin to breathe normally again. “Why not me?” Yes, of course, I’m special; yes, I’m kind; yes, I’m funny, a wonderful friend and lots of other things, but so are many of the thousands of people killed every day at the hands of young men who smoulder with rage. The ones whose imaginations are fed by the 26,000 murders they see on TV by the time they’re 18.  

Perhaps he’s smart enough not to shoot me on the bridge; perhaps he’s waiting on the other side. I know I could move into the center lane, but then I would be likely to miss the exit to Sir Frances Drake Blvd. which comes quickly after the bridge, and besides, now I’m pissed. I may be shaking, but I will not be bullied. And, I reason, he’s probably not that good of a shot. I’ll be a speeding target with one hand on my cell phone. 

When at last I reach my destination and realize I haven’t been killed or followed, I turn off the ignition and slump back exhausted into my seat. I give thanks to my angels who heard me scream, “Help me, help me!” as he reached for what surely was a gun. I ask them to watch over this young man, to help him forge a life where he no longer nurses a rage and where he will have more to live for than the momentary satisfaction of teaching some bitch a lesson because of a little toot of the horn.

The Sky is Different

By G. P. Skratz
Tuesday December 30, 2003

After the season finale of Friends, 

we perform a couchectomy 


on our kids & grandkid, 

drag them outside to watch 


the shadow of the planet 

blot out the moon in outer space: 


great mother beneath her veil, 

hearth of our spirits in heaven. 


Old Man

Tuesday December 30, 2003

old old man 

why rush across your lawn 

for the newspaper?

Farewell, My Love

Tuesday December 30, 2003

May it all go well with you 

wherever you are 

may the wind sit on your shoulder 

may your shadow never grow shorter 

a bit of love in your pocket 

and peace on your journey 

to the far country  

of the gods.

The Junk Park

Tuesday December 30, 2003

My grandson Aaron is 12 now, almost a teenager, and very nearly out of my grandmotherly reach. But I still have wistful memories of when he was very young, and we started to go off together on private adventures—just the two of us. 

We had been to some of the local playgrounds near where he lived, in Concord; and he had fun playing in the sandbox and going down the slides. I’d taken him to Heather Farms in Walnut Creek, where he enjoyed feeding the ducks. But nothing compared to the thrill of the first time I took him to Adventure Park in the Berkeley Marina. 

I’d picked him up at my son’s house in the morning, and we headed down the freeway towards Berkeley. As we walked from the parking lot, his little hand in mine, the park came into view, and he eyed it with deep suspicion: it’s a raggle-taggle assortment of rickety wooden shacks, and old tires; a motley collection of randomly painted structures, with a giant spider web made of various kinds of industrial webbing in the center. 

There were a few children about, climbing, hammering, painting...and some parents, also hammering, building flimsy boat-looking objects, adding sections to some of the wooden buildings. I could tell Aaron didn’t quite know what to make of it all. This didn’t look like a proper park at all! 

He surveyed the area with a slight scowl on his face, and tentatively poked into some of the dark interiors of the little buildings. He seemed equally dubious about some of the other children who were cavorting about. 

He finally settled on the giant spider web to experiment with. He struggled to get a footing on the webbing, which was loose and wiggly. He made his way upwards slowly, and with obvious difficulty, but with a look of fierce determination on his face. 

In a little while other children about his age and size joined him on the web—but their footing was firmer, and they were less cautious as they advanced up to the top. I could see Aaron studying them and taking courage. I could almost hear him thinking, “Well, if they can do it, I can do it too!” And his movements became more assertive. 

The father of one of the girls soon joined in the fun, and asked Aaron what his name was, and the other children introduced themselves to him. The father started to crawl under the webbing and announced that he was a giant crocodile and was going to eat them up! The kids scampered about with glee, including Aaron. 

As I was watching, I noticed that outside the play area the girl’s mother was setting up a party table, and it was clear that the children were guests at the little girl’s birthday party. 

After a while the father announced: “The first person who finds three nails gets a prize!” The children dispersed. Aaron ran up to me excitedly, “Grandma, we have to find three nails, so I can win the prize!” 

How to explain to him that the other children were part of a birthday party, and that one of them, not he, would get the prize? It saddened me to see the subtle changes of expression on his face as I this sunk in. He was clearly disappointed, but he understood. And, with a slight shrug of his little shoulders, he went off to explore some of the rickety wooden tunnels nearby. 

From that time on, each time I saw him he asked when we going back to what he had named the “Junk Park.” And the next time I picked him up for our adventure he was brimming with excitement, and chatted with great animation the whole trip to the park.  

He once more put his little hand in mine as we walked from the parking lot, but, once we got there, he immediately darted from one activity to another, with great confidence. 

We decided to paint our names on one of the shacks, and went to the attendant to get some paint and brushes. She told us we would first have to find 10 nails on the premises and bring them to her. We thereupon started to hunt on the sandy ground, and nail-by-nail we found our 10, and presented them to the girl in charge. Then we carefully discussed what color we should use...and then where we should paint our names. And soon, for all to see, in bright green paint were “AARON” and “ESTHER” on the wall of one of the shacks.  

Then he continued on to the next adventure. Another young boy was looking for 10 nails so he, too, could get some paint, and Aaron went up to him and helped him find his quota. And went on to explore, in turn, each of the numerous attractions in the area. It was difficult to pry him away from the park when it was time to go home. 

Our “Junk Park” adventures continued for many years, and before long my granddaughter Emily, Aaron’s little sister, joined us in our explorations. It was always their first choice of where to go when they came over to visit at Grandma’s house.  

Alas, that time is now gone, and they are now off on their own adventures. But whenever I have out-of-town guests with small children, I take particular delight in introducing them to that very special park, and sharing their amazement of that wondrous place.

The Frog Prince

By Myrna Sokolinsky
Tuesday December 30, 2003

A lovely young princess was walking about 

And she stopped by the edge of a pond. 

As she sat there a frog from the water came out, 

So she asked it to kindly respond: 


“Will you tell me if you are a prince?” “Yes I am, 

And my soldiers will shortly appear.” 

And then, sure enough, in formation they swam, 

two by two came each brave volunteer. 


And the frog prince said, ‘Hup, two, three, four” to his corps 

And “‘Tenshun,” said the prince very loud, 

As his disciplined soldiers lined up on the shore 

And the prince stood up war-like and proud. 


Now each of these knights wore a tiny gas mask 

As they waited for their next command, 

So the princess was puzzled and she had to ask, 

“Why the gas masks? I don’t understand.” 

“Our frog population is dying today,” 

Said the prince, “and our babies are born 

with birth defects causing their parents dismay. 

I gives them a feeling forlorn.” 


“But what is the cause,” asked the lovely princess, 

“Of this suffering that you endure?” 

“It’s the pesticides, Miss, that have cause this distrees 

And the herbicides, that is for sure. 


“And that is the reason that we have to wear 

These gas masks on our little heads. 

The poison they put in our water and air 

Is what every little frog dreads. 


“If you humans think that it’s only us frogs 

Who’s affected by your pesticide, 

That it’s only the creatures who live in the bogs, 

Note: the Fall cometh after the Pride.” 


And with this last word for the whole human race. 

They marched with the prince in the lead, 

With courage to go and fight face to face, 

And the princess cried to them, “Godspeed!”

Academy Awaits the Wrecking Ball

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Friday December 26, 2003

With the close of the year, one of the Bay Area’s greatest scientific and cultural monuments will disappear as we know it. 

There are only a few days left before the venerable buildings of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park close forever. Visit now, before the old Academy is gone for good. 

Of course the 150-year-old Academy itself is not going away. As a scientific and educational institution it will be emphatically reborn, first in temporary exhibit quarters near the Moscone Center, then back in Golden Gate Park by 2008 in an elaborate new building on the same old site. 

However, in the New Year wrecking balls will reduce to rubble eight decades of irreplaceable institutional history in the form of the Academy’s existing buildings. 

Something similar happened once before, nearly a century ago in 1906, when the Academy’s Market Street headquarters was destroyed by earthquake and fire. The current buildings in Golden Gate Park were the result. 

Some years ago San Franciscans approved rebuilding the current Academy almost literally from the ground up as a solution to extensive seismic problems and other major deterioration in the old buildings. The allure of a state of the art museum facility won out over a more nuanced reconstruction. 

Although the scientific treasures of the Academy—one of the nation’s premier centers of natural history, collections, research and education—will be carefully packed up and preserved, eight decades of Golden Gate park buildings are now regarded as a disposable part of San Francisco’s cultural patrimony. 

It’s a tragedy, since older buildings help define and enhance the gravitas and character of elder institutions. Consider, for example, if Berkeley’s UC campus were to be cleared then rebuilt with only 21st century structures. 

The time to see the Academy—for the first time, or for one last time—is now. 

If you go, allow about three or four hours for a visit if you can. Begin in the main lobby, which faces the Music Concourse of Golden Gate Park and the hulking hanger-like mass of the “new de Young” museum rising beyond. 

I suggest touring clockwise. Start with the Simson African Hall. 

Here, in one of the earlier and least altered parts of the Academy, is a slice of early 20th century natural history mystique and pre-electronic exhibit magic. It’s one of the few fragments of the current Academy structures that will be recognizably incorporated into the new structure. 

The softly lit hall, painted cream and apple green and ornamented with abstract arabesques and rosettes, is filled with vignettes of wildlife collected in an era when the word “Africa” still implied mystery and exoticism to most Americans. From stuffed hippos, to giraffes gathered beneath trees around a watering hole, it’s a look into a different world, detailed down to blades of grass and insects. 

Next is the Morrison Planetarium. A marquee fixture of the Academy for more than half a century, the venerable theater in the round is equipped with a unique “star projector” designed and built at the Academy. In the new Academy, a video projector will replace the ornate mechanical equipment. 

If you can take in a planetarium show (separate admission), note around the base of the dome the silhouette cutout of San Francisco’s skyline seen from Golden Gate Park in an earlier, less hurried, age before high-rises. 

Near the planetarium, pause to watch the Foucault Pendulum swinging back and forth like a giant metronome while the earth turns below it. Children crowd around watching with breathless anticipation, as at regular intervals, the pendulum knocks over a wooden peg. You may witness the last swings; it’s unclear if there will be any pendulum in the new Academy. 

Near the pendulum are exhibits and models describing plans for the “new” Academy building. Take a look—it’s an intriguing plan—but use your time to fully appreciate the old Academy first. 

Next is a historic heart of the Academy, the Steinhart Aquarium’s stately, columned, neoclassical hall featuring reptile cases around a sky-lit sunken “swamp” of alligators and turtles, enclosed by a wonderful railing of cast bronze seahorses, one of the Academy’s iconic symbols. 

Be sure to appreciate the fantastic tile work depicting reptiles on the walls and floors of this central area; step outside to the central courtyard to admire the wonderful cast metal animal figures adorning the entrance doors. 

While a similar “swamp” is supposed to be installed in the new Academy building, flanked by a columned gallery, it seems likely the new space will be only an echo, not a re-creation, of this gracious interior. 

Allow plenty of time to stroll through one of the premier glories of the Academy, the Steinhart’s “U” shaped tunnel-like space filled with underwater wonders. The walls are lined with displays from jewel-like cases the size of a home aquarium to huge tanks. The aquatic variety is almost endless, from a pitch-black tank of bioluminescent “flashlight fish,” to penguins, a coral reef, and garden pond koi. 

The last part of the aquarium is the must-see “Fish Roundabout.” Ascend on a spiral ramp within the “hole” of an enormous donut shaped tank. Around you in an ocean of rippling blue light swim fish of the open sea from rays to barracuda to tuna. The Roundabout, too, will be a thing of the past in a few months.  

Beyond the Steinhart, double back for a few minutes to walk through the linear “Life Through Time” gallery with its wall displays, dioramas and living exhibits. The gallery is a coherent rebuttal, informed by solid science, of the dogmas of those who attack evolution. It, too, may go away in the new Academy. 

Two key parts of the Academy remain to be seen. First, there’s a wonderful mineral display; a long corridor showcases a tremendous variety of geological specimens from tiny jewels to huge crystalline structures. Just beyond is what’s now known as “Wild California” but was the old North American Hall, one of the earliest parts of the Academy. Here, as in the Simson African Hall, there are fantastic dioramas of wildlife.  

Like the diminishing wild spaces they depict, they await the apparently relentless approach of progress. 


The Academy is located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, on the Music Concourse, across from the de Young Museum. If driving, take Lincoln Way along the southern edge of the Park to 7th Avenue and enter the Park; the Academy is located a short distance ahead, on the right. Or enter the Park from the east end and take John F. Kennedy Drive to the north end of the Music Concourse (on Sundays, Kennedy Drive is closed to cars.) 

Standard operating hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission ranges from $2 for children under 11 to $8.50 for adults. Planetarium show admission is extra. 

On Dec. 29, 30, and 31, admission will be free and the Academy will have special, extended hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

For more details, visit the California Academy of Sciences, check its website at www.calacademy.org.

Friday December 26, 2003


Celebrate Kwanzaa with story- 

teller Diane Ferlatte at 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, West Branch. 981-6270. 


Kwanzaa Celebration for Berkeley residents at 4:30 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, with storytelling, dancing and fashion show. Please bring a dish to share. 981-5362. 


Civic Arts Grant Workshop, sponsored by the City of Berkeley, Civic Arts Commission, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. For information call 981-7539.  

Dana Smith and his Dog Lacey at the North Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda, at 3 p.m. His family show combines juggling and other circus arts and showcases the energetic show stopper, Lacey. The free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library and is recommended for children from 3 through 9 years. For further information, contact the Children’s Library, 981-6223. For information on other free library programs, check www.infopeople.org/bpl 

Tea at Four Enjoy some of the best teas from the other side of the Pacific Rim and learn their cultural and natural history. Then take a walk to see wintering birds and dormant ladybeetles, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, in Tilden Park. Registration required. Cost is $5 for residents, $7 for non-residents. Wheelchair accessible. 525-2233. 


Dana Smith and his Dog Lacey at the South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell St. at 10:30 a.m. and the West Branch, 1125 University at 2 p.m. His family show combines juggling and other circus arts and showcases the energetic show stopper, Lacey. The free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library and is recommended for children from 3 through 9 years. For further information, contact the Children’s Library, 981-6223. For information on other free library programs, check www.infopeople.org/bpl  


Berkeley Youth Orchestra Auditions will be held during the week of Jan. 5th. To schedule an audition, please call 663-3296 or visit www.byoweb.org 

The Berkeley School Board is now accepting applications for Board Committees and Commissions. Applicants interested in representing a Board Member will find information and applications on the BUSD web site www.berkeleypublicschools.org or by contacting the Public Information Officer at 644-6320. Applications can also be picked up in the Superintendent’s office. 

City of Berkeley Commissioners Sought If you are interested in serving on a commission, applications can be downloaded from www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 

commissions/general.htm#applications or contact the City Clerk, 981-6900.  

Free Smoke Detectors for City residents and UC Berkeley students who live off-campus. Applications are available from the Environment, Health & Safety office of UC Berkeley, at any Berkeley Fire Station, or at the Fire Admin. Office located at 2100 MLK, Jr. Way. 981-5585.  

Free Energy Bill Payment Assistance The City of Berkeley has money to help low-income households pay their gas and electric bills. For applications contact the Energy Office at 644-8544. TDD: 981-6903. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/energy.

Letters to the Editor

Friday December 26, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article by George Bishwarat (“The Other Diaspora Israelis Must Confront,” Daily Planet, Dec. 9-11) is full of errors and distortions. Palestinians were not “driven out of Israel” in 1948 but left on the advice of the leaders of the Arab states. Israel absorbed over 600,000 of the 900,000 Jews who were driven out Arab lands. The United States supported the UN’s 1947 mandate which established two states, but the Arab states and the Arabs of Palestine rejected it. The combined aries of the Arab states attacked Israel the day after Israel was created.  

Today Arabs are citizens of Israel and serve in the parliament. Over 1.2 million Arabs live in Israel. If they were driven out in 1948, then where did they come from?  

Bishwarat’s article is full of outright lies and is a pure propaganda piece.  

Sanne DeWitt  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Verizon Wireless Company runs a commercial which depicts the U.S. Cavalry’s use of cellular phones to defeat American Indians. It is as anti-Indian as it can get. What was Verizon thinking? The people of this company demonstrate their 19th century mentality with this negativeportrayal. 

The U.S. Government during that century waged a genocidal war against American Indians in the name of expansion. American Indians were only defending their way of life when the government took their land. I demand that Verizon stop running these commercials which portray American Indians in a negative light. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading Susan Fleisher’s letter (Daily Planet, Dec. 19-22) it finally dawned on me that we are rapidly approaching the Pentagon in the absurdity of spending money without questioning what we are getting in return, for surely the $11,533 curb cut has to be right up there with the $640 toilet seat and the $200 hammer. Outside of San Francisco, Berkeley has the most bloated, overpaid and underworked city government in the entire state. Berkeley pays the highest property taxes in the bay area but we certainly don’t get what we pay for. It’s typical that Susan Fleisher got no reply from Vicki Elmer and Councilmember Wooley-Baur. I could fill this whole page with examples of the incompetence and arrogance of the government of this city but I think I’ll have a beer instead and try to figure out how you can spend $11,533 on a curb cut. 

Mitchell Rose 




Dear Mayor Bates and Councilmembers, 

I want to thank you for approving Peter Hillier’s recommendation for an automated traffic enforcement program at the Dec. 16 City Council Meeting. 

I attended the meeting hoping I’d have a chance to speak in its favor. I planned to remind you all that Berkeley is still not a safe town for pedestrians and cyclists, and automated traffic enforcement will help. This program also can contribute substantial revenue to the city, the more it is rolled out throughout Berkeley, and that feature is very important during these severe budget times, when we face cutting important city services such as fire fighting. 

Given the severe budget, I also wanted to speak in favor of Mr. Hank Resnick’s letter to council in favor of Cost-Effective Traffic Calming circles. Stretching the budget funds across as many traffic-calming circles as possible is a more efficient use of Berkeley’s limited funds. Making Berkeley safer for bicyclists reduces the tremendously expensive demand for increased downtown car parking. 

I hope the automated traffic enforcement can be used extensively in Berkeley and applied to speeding and crosswalk violations. My experience Tueday night reinforces that (automated) traffic enforcement in Berkeley, has tremendous potential to not only eliminate the city’s deficit, but to give Berkeley a huge surplus!  

On my walk to the meeting, I had a very close call with a car racing down the Hearst Avenue Expressway and ignoring me & another person in the Le Conte Avenue pedestrian crosswalk. When I walk my darling dog, Flower walks a few paces in front of me on her leash; and if I had been walking Flower to the UC campus this time, in that crosswalk, she’d surely have been roadkill. 

On my walk back from the meeting, I had another close call in the pedestrian crosswalk at the Oxford Avenue Racetrack, at Addison Street. I was clearly in the curb lane when the car was a half block away, speeding southbound, in the innermost lane. The car did not slow down as I entered the middle lane, so I had to halt (& consider racing back to the western sidewalk). The car ultimately skidded 20 feet as the driver slammed on her brakes just as she reached the crosswalk. She apologized and said she hadn’t seen me, despite my light clothing. She denied that she had been speeding excessively, despite the long skid, and she promised to be more careful in the future. 

Berkeley can & must become safer for pedestrians & bicyclists. Illegal and unsafe car drivers can & should finance the city’s way out of our budget mess. Car driving is a privilege, rather than a right, and drivers need to obey the laws. Without adequate traffic enforcement, car drivers apparently have no incentive to drive safely. I’d like to see automated traffic enforcement provide the catalyst to create a safer Berkeley. 

Mitch Cohen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jesus was a pacifist and a peace activist. He still is. 

The Jesus that I know and love is so filled with compassion that He makes special field trips to Hell, taking pitchers of ice water to those who ignore “Thou shalt not kill” signs to their own peril. 

He also brings fruit baskets to the poor. 

And He is dead-set against corporate welfare too. It’s that “eye of the needle” thing. If Jesus had staged His Second Coming last month, for instance, he would have been out protesting in Miami. And Bush, Halliburton, NAFTA and them would have had Him beaten, jailed and sent off to Guantanamo (Jesus was, after all, a Palestinian.) 

So. In Christ’s name, let’s all have a Merry Christmas, bring our troops safely home from Iraq and send Bush, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and them off to fight their own deceitful sleazy wars so that it will be them, not us, who end up in Hell. 

In honor of the birthday of the Prince of Peace, may those of us who would be Christians make a solemn vow to do unto others as we would have others do unto us.  

And let’s also start to practice what we preach. 

Jane Stillwater 









Friday December 26, 2003



Surco Nuevo performs salsa at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Through Walls, Thriving Ivory, Drive Line at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $6. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

World Beat Celebration with Neal Cronin, Joyce Wermont, and Vlad Ulyashin perform acoustic rhythmic/harmonic sounds of the Middle East, and Rap, Tuvan harmonic singing, at 7 p.m. at A Cuppa Tea, 3200 College Ave., corner of Alcatraz. 654-1904. 

Hobo Jungle, 7th Direction at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Kammen and Swan at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $15.50 in advance, $16.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Reggae Party with Irie Productions at the 1923 Teahouse at 8 p.m. Suggested donation of $7-$15. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org 

Nicole McRory at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Spencer Day at 8:30 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

The Phenomenauts, The Soviettes, The Stellas, No Apologies Project, The Skyflakes at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Blue and Tan at 9 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



The Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show XI, with Will Durst, at 8 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Tickets are $17, and are available from 925-798-1300. 


Fireproof and The People performs Reggae and Hip Hop at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

43rd Street Studios Showcase at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $3. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $20.50 in advance, $21.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



Steam Train Science and Song at noon at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $4.50 to $8.50. 642-5132. 


Poetry Express, open mic night, “Between the Holidays” from 7 to 9:30 p.m., at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. berkeleypoetryexpress@yahoo.com 


Steve Gannon Band and Mz. Dee at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $4.  

848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 



“Wind in the Willows” presented by The Oakland Public Theater at 3:00 at the Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. Sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library. For further information, contact the Children's Library, 981-6223. For information on other free library programs, see www.infopeople.org/bpl 

NanoRama at noon at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $4.50 to $8.50. 642-5132. 


Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Cheryl McBride at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mimi Fox, solo guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



New Year’s Eve Day Party at noon at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $4.50 to $8.50. 642-5132. 


San Francisco Chamber Orchestra New Year’s Concert with Sally Porter Munro, mezzo-soprano, and 12-year-old Evie Chen, violin, performing the music of Handel, Hayden, Mendelssohn and Schubert at 8 p.m. and First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $20 suggested donations, $50 preferred seating. 415-392-4400. www.sfchamberorchestra.org 

The Top Hat Waltz Ball, from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. in the Chevron Auditorium, International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. Music By The Brassworks Band, dance performance by “The Top Hats” Formal dress admired but not required. This is a non-alcoholic event. All ages. Tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the door. 650-326 6265. www.FridayNightWaltz.Com 

New Year’s Eve Zapatista Party Join a Global Celebration for the 10th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising, from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Humanist Hall 390 27th St. Oakland. With live music and spoken word. Admission is $15.  


Orquesta La Moderna Tradición, New Years Eve Dance at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center 849-2572. www.lapena.org  

New Year’s Eve Bluegrass Bash with High Country, Dix Bruce and Jim Nually at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $22.50 in advance, $23.50 at the door. 548-1761.  


New Year’s Eve Balkan Bash with Zabava, Izvorno, Anoush, Joe and Leslie, And Edessa at Ashkenaz. Cost is $18.  

525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


KGB and Sol Americano at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $12 in advance, $15 at the door. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

New Year’s Eve Soirée with Rosin Coven at 9 p.m. at 1923 Teahouse. All ages are welcome. $30 per person includes hors d’ouevres and champagne toast, children half price. Reservations required. 644-2204. justin@epicarts.org 

New Year’s Fiesta at Café de la Paz, 1600 Shattuck Ave., featuring a latin dance with Jose Roberto y Los Amigos and a dinner buffet, at 8 p.m. Cost is $75. 843-0662.  

Fourtet Jazz Quartet at 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5, midnight champagne and party favors included. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Rhonda Benin and Soulful Strut at 9:30 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

New Year’s Eve Party with Glider performing eclectic rock, at 9 p.m. at Jupiter. Cost is $10. 848-8277. 

Nicole and the Soul Sisters at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



Keni El Lebrijano, flamenco guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Andy Summers Band at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

George Pedersen, John Havord & Friends at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Townsend’s Warbler Serves as Seasonal Harbinger

By JOE EATON Special to the Planet
Friday December 26, 2003

It was 34 years ago last month, but the memory of my first Townsend’s warbler is still vivid: a tiny, brightly colored bird flitting through the trees in the Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park. I was fresh out of North Carolina and everything in the Bay Area—the birds, the trees, the weather, the politics, the music—was new and exciting. It was another “Welcome to California” moment. 

Since then, every winter has brought a few Townsend’s warblers into my life. Their arrival from the north has become a milepost of the changing seasons. One was searching for bugs in my next-door neighbor’s redwood a few weeks ago, and they used to frequent the Hollywood juniper below my front porch before we had it cut back (in self defense).  

There’s been another in the garden behind my mother’s nursing home. Unlike many winter-plumaged warblers, they’re easy to identify: Both sexes and all ages have a crisp yellow and green pattern, accented with black in adult males. 

Sunday before last I took part in another Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count at Point Reyes. Whatever else we find on that count, we’re pretty much assured of Townsend’s warbler. This year was no exception: My area had them in double digits. In fact, the only time I can recall not having Townsend’s was the infamous 2002 count, when gale force winds and torrential rains kept bird activity down and forced an early retreat by the few intrepid observers who had gone out anyway. 

(Townsend who? John Kirk Townsend was one of those 19th century naturalist-explorers, a young Philadelphia Quaker who went west in 1834: out to the Oregon Territory, where he met his warbler, and on to what were then called the Sandwich Islands. Fieldwork had its challenges in those days: a companion once consumed the whiskey Townsend had brought along as a preservative, and another roasted and ate an owl the naturalist had planned to skin and stuff. Besides the warbler, Townsend’s name was bestowed on a solitaire, a shearwater, a bunting, a chipmunk, a ground squirrel, a pocket gopher, a mole, a vole, a big-eared bat. He died in his forties, poisoned by exposure to the arsenic he used to protect museum specimens from insect damage.) 

Only a minority of the species spends the winter with us. Most make the longer flight from their breeding grounds in the northwestern old-growth forests to winter range in the mountain pinewoods of Mexico and Central America. Migration is risky business: there are predators, storms, navigation errors. Every year a few lost Townsend’s warblers show up on the East Coast. This makes the local birders happy, but the warblers usually succumb to the rigors of the season. 

The habitats at each end of the route are also at risk. Things don’t look good for old-growth right now. And further south, the forests of the Sierra Madre are being logged off and cleared for opium and marijuana plantations. The warblers that short-stop in Berkeley may be better off, despite cat predation and other urban hazards. 

Does it seem like a strange time to be worrying about warblers? It’s still a dangerous world, even if you’re not being shot at in Baghdad. In the name of homeland security, entities less benign than Santa Claus are making lists and checking them twice. And along with our civil liberties, 30 years’ worth of environmental legislation is under siege. Did anyone else notice when Congress exempted the military from the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts? (The Pentagon wanted relief from the burdens of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Superfund acts as well. Maybe next year…) 

So going out to count birds may look like the height of frivolity. The Christmas Count, which takes place over a two-week period throughout the Americas and the South Pacific, can be defended as citizen science at its best. It’s a crucial source of data on bird population trends. But for me—and lots of others, I suspect—it’s more than that, an important seasonal ritual in its own right. We need all the continuity we can get these days, whether it’s slogging through the wet woods after warblers or something more conventional. The season wouldn’t be the same without the call-and-response litany of the countdown dinner, the party leaders’ reports, the rumors of Something Really Good. 

As I contemplate the warblers of winter, I think about Pablo Neruda, who never lost his eye for a bird; about that great misanthrope Robinson Jeffers, taking a kind of austere comfort in his belief that the earth and its creatures would manage to survive us and our follies. And about George Orwell, writing in 1946 in praise of the common English toad: “How many a time have I stood watching the toads mating, or a pair of hares having a boxing match in the young corn, and thought of all the important persons who would stop me enjoying this if they could. But luckily they can’t….The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.” 

So as Orwell took pleasure in his toads, I take mine in this season’s Townsend’s warblers, small flickers of light in a darkening world. 

Good luck to you little guys. Good luck to us all.

Gun Suit Deadlock Results in Mistrial

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday December 26, 2003

Jury deliberations in the multi-million dollar Beretta “unsafe pistol” trial in Alameda County Superior Court may have been closer than a 6-6 deadlock would indicate. So the father of a 15-year-old Berkeley boy accidentally shot and killed by a friend nine years ago says that his family will bring the issue back to court for a third time. 

“We came very, very close to winning,” Griffin Dix said in a telephone interview shortly after Superior Court Judge Gordon Baranco declared a mistrial after an eight-day trial and four days of jury deliberations. 

“We were able to talk to the jury afterwards,” Dix said. “The first time they voted 9-3 in our favor. But then two people were changed. One got sick and one had a babysitting problem, and couldn’t come. So other people were brought in, and that disrupted their discussions, and they had to go back to the very beginning. They lost some time and they lost some momentum.” 

A Walnut Creek-based attorney for Beretta USA of Maryland did not return telephone calls from the Daily Planet. 

Dix’s son, Kenzo, was killed in 1994 in the Berkeley home of 14-year-old Michael Soe when Soe pulled out his father’s 9mm Beretta semiautomatic pistol and shot Kenzo Dix in the chest. Soe said later that the shooting was unintentional, that he had replaced the pistol’s full magazine with an empty one, and wasn’t aware that the pistol still retained a bullet in its chamber. 

Griffin Dix and his wife, Lynn, sued Beretta, alleging that the pistol was defectively designed because it lacked an indicator that would show if a bullet was in the chamber and didn’t have devices that locked out unauthorized users. The Dix family also settled a $100,000 claim against Soe’s parents. 

Five years ago, an Alameda County civil jury ruled in favor of Beretta, but in 2000, that verdict was overturned due to jury misconduct. 

Dix blamed this week’s verdict on what he called “intransigent jurors. Some of them could only see the misuse of this gun and the way it was stored by the father. They got hung up in some language in the jury form that they had to fill out. 

“But others of them recognized that the design of the gun ultimately contributed to my son’s death. So I still think we have a good chance of winning the case. The point is to try to prevent these unintentional deaths that are caused by defective designs of guns.” 

Since his son’s death, Dix went to work for Physicians For A Violence Free Society, a San Francisco-based organization that lobbies and advocates for various violence-prevention issues. 

Dix said he’ll continue to work to have handgun manufacturers change the design of their weapons, and to ban the sale of all guns that do not have such features installed. 

“There are two research studies that say that one-fourth of unintentional shootings would be prevented if guns had chamber-loaded indicators and what’s called a magazine disconnect safety device,” Dix said. “You take out the magazine and the gun won’t fire, even if there’s a bullet still in the chamber. One-fourth of all unintentional shootings would be about 200 lives a year could be saved in the United States if we had these safety features.” 

Dix said that Beretta had designed a gun with a lock built in, but while it is being advertised by the company, it is not on the market yet. 

And he said that bad news is on the national horizon even if he wins the next round of the lawsuit. “The House of Representatives has already passed a bill, and there are 54 sponsors in the Senate that would give the gun industry a special, unique exemption from these kinds of lawsuits lawsuits. Some of them say these lawsuits are frivolous. The truth is, they really don’t want them to go in front of juries and for juries to see the facts.”

The Twelve Days of Halliburtonmas

Friday December 26, 2003

On the twelfth day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: twelve no-bid contracts asmellin’. 


On the eleventh day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: eleven cost overruns arunnin’. 


On the tenth day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: ten insurgents insurgin’. 


On the ninth day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: nine CFOs acookin’. 


On the eigth day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: eight tanker trucks overchargin’. 


On the seven day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: seven war profiteers aprofitin’. 


On the sixth day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: six Pentagon auditors awhitewashin’. 


On the fifth day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: five broken pipelines. 


On the fourth day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: four bawling Kurds. 


On the third day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: three French freezeouts. 


On the second day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: two dead doves. 


On the first day of Halliburtonmas, my true corporation gave to me: a chickenhawk in a date palm tree. 


James K. Sayre 


Notes From The Underground: Festive Alternatives for Ringing in the New Year

By C. Suprynowicz
Friday December 26, 2003

å If you think a proper New Years Eve can only be had by weaving your way to San Francisco and back, praying for safe passage, think again. Plot Wednesday evening properly and you can sidle from one Berkeley nightspot to another—getting your fill of food, drink, and revelry—without ever getting near a cab, a limo, or your own endangered set of wheels. 

Starting off downtown, Rhonda Benin and Soulful Strut play at 9:30 p.m. at the eponymous restaurant. For those who haven’t been, Downtown is an upscale eatery hanging off the edge of what Berkeley is calling its theater district. 2101 Shattuck Ave., 649-3810. 

Less pricey, and certain to be more raucous, is the trouble that’ll be perpetrated right across the street that evening at Jupiter’s New Year’s Eve party, featuring Glider performing “eclectic rock” at 9 p.m. 2181 Shattuck Ave., 848-8277. $10.  

San Pablo Avenue is the Bowery of Berkeley. It has escaped the face-lift and collagen that are making over the center of town, and retains the funky charm that I remember from my own landing here 20 years ago. If the streets down in the flats are not glamorous, the ambiance is warm and inviting inside the Albatross, a local watering hole that has always reminded me—in the best way—of an English Pub. Founded in 1964, there’s often live music at the Albatross, always several dart games underway in back, always popcorn in the popper, always single-malt at the bar and Guinness on draft. Their plan for New Years Eve is the Fourtet Jazz Quartet, 10 p.m.-1 a.m. 1822 San Pablo Ave., 843-2473 or www.abatrosspub.com. $5, including midnight champagne and party favors. 

Without having to find car keys or a taxi you can launch yourself either north or south from the Albatross. At the Freight and Salvage Coffee House (south), you got your New Year’s Eve Bluegrass Bash with High Country, Dix Bruce and Jim Nually at 8 p.m. 1111 Addison St., 548-1761 or www.freightandsalvage.org. $22.50 in advance, $23.50 at the door.  

North from the Albatross you got the New Year’s Eve Balkan Bash at Ashkenaz with Zabava, Izvorno, Anoush, and Edessa, and Joe and Leslie. For those who may have just landed on these shores, Ashkenaz is the place to go dancing in the East Bay. Dancing to Balkan music, by the way, counts for two Pilates classes and a weekend of Bikram Yoga. 1317 San Pablo Ave., 525-5054 or www.ashkenaz.com. $18.  

In the East Bay you can have New Years Eve with petitions and manifestos, if you like. And you can commute from one bastion of righteous ideology to another without burning a single petro-molecule. First, there’s the New Year’s Eve Zapatista Party from 8:30 p.m.-2 a.m. at Oakland’s Humanist Hall. “Join a Global Celebration for the 10th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising!” is the pitch. And the fun factor seems to be in place, with live music and dancing, featuring ORIXA—Rock en Espanol, Cumbias Bodhi Busick Band (“World Conscious Latin Folk Rock Son de la Tierra”), traditional Son Jarocho from Veracruz, plus (wait, there’s more) Aztec Dancers Cuahtonal, and Spoken Word artist Rolando Carrillo. 390 27th St., Oakland. $15 admission goes to benefit the sister Zapatista county of San Manuel.  

A 15-minute bike ride north through the urban jungle and you can be at La Peña Cultural Center. Their New Years’ Eve Fiesta Fabulosa is built on a simple credo: classic Cuban dance music with Orquesta La Moderna starting at 9:30 p.m. $20 in advance, $22 at the door. And the Cafe Valparaiso’s open for dinner. 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. 

The University of California, of course, is where some of our finest troublemakers got their start. Right next to campus you can get stinking drunk and really deaf in the basement of Larry Blake’s, then wake up in your dorm room the next morning, having staggered there under your own steam. Larry Blake’s, is of course, the time-honored dungeon that lurks just below street level a block south of Sather Gate. KGB and Sol Americano hold forth at 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. 2367 Telegraph Ave., 848-0886or www.blakesontelegraph.com. $12 in advance, $15 at the door.  

You want it quiet, elegant, virtuosic? The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra Season comes to our side of the bay for the 18th annual Berkeley New Year’s Concert. Guest soloists this year are mezzo-soprano Sally Porter Munro, and violin prodigy Evie Chen, age 12, who will play a concerto that Felix Mendelssohn wrote when he was a composing prodigy of 13. Same program: music of Handel, Hayden, and Schubert. It’s 8 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. (415) 392-4400. www.sfchamberorchestra.org. $20.  

Nearby—all this action is in a three block radius, folks—after a short inebriated stroll up Bancroft, the Top Hat Waltz Ball will take place at “The beautiful Chevron Auditorium in the 1930s historical landmark International House.” 9 p.m.-12:30a.m. Music by the Brassworks Band, dance performance by the Top Hats. Formal dress, they say, is admired but not required. A non-alcoholic event, meaning both that hip flasks will be much in evidence, and that all ages are welcome. 2299 Piedmont. (650) 326 6265 or www.FridayNightWaltz.com. $20 in advance (by Dec. 27), $25 at the door. 

One more stop? Midway between the revelry down in the flats, the parties downtown, the various bacchanals near campus, and the various events trailing out to the south toward Oakland, we have the Epic Arts Studio. Good, weird fun will be had with Rosin Coven at 9 p.m. This is cabaret by way of Tom Waits and the Andrews Sisters: two female-style singers out front, a trombone, bass, couple of cellos, a glockenspiel, and (of course) an accordion. And, again, all ages are welcome at this event. It’s $30 per person, children half-price. Price of admission includes hors d’ouevres and champagne toast. 1923 Ashby Ave., 644-2204 or rosincoven.com. Reservations required. 

So who needs a limo and a reservation at the Top Of The Mark? It’s all right here, brothers and sisters, in the People’s Republic. 

Remember, go in peace. And if you can’t go in peace, just go.

Berkeley’s Homeless Get Good, Bad News

Friday December 26, 2003

The holidays are bringing a mixed bag to Berkeley’s homeless.  

Alameda County will receive $21.2 million in federal funding—second most in the state—to sustain programs that house the chronically homeless, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced last week. 

But the Berkeley Fire Department has run out of blankets for the homeless, the county food bank recently ran out of food, and City of Berkeley officials still expect more cuts to state-funded programs. 

Thirteen Berkeley-based programs are among the county’s 58 slated to receive continued funding from the HUD funds, said city Community Services Specialist Kristen Lee, though she added that fallout from the city and state budget crises will likely mean reduced services to the homeless this year. 

Only Los Angeles County received more funding than Alameda, which garnered over $5 million more than San Francisco. 

“Over the past several years Alameda has had good programs so they have a higher number of renewals,” said HUD spokesperson Larry Bush. 

After years of purely competitive bidding for HUD money, Alameda County created a vast array of HUD-sponsored programs. Now that the agency uses a formula to allocate renewal grants, the county has grandfathered in the programs guaranteeing it a larger share of the pie, explained Megan Schatz of the Alameda County-wide Homeless Continuum of Care. 

Also, by tailoring their programs to emphasize permanent housing solutions, which the White House is pushing, Bush said, the county has given itself a leg up on other jurisdictions. This year Alameda County won a competitive bid from HUD to fund a group home in Livermore. 

Homelessness across the county is declining according to a survey released by the Continuum of Care earlier this year. Results showed that at any given time there are 6,215 homeless people in Alameda County, 1,280 listed as chronically homeless. In Berkeley, the survey found 835 homeless people, mostly middle-aged men. 

Among the city programs safeguarded by the HUD allocation are the Shelter Plus Care Program, which provides rental assistance and social services to 129 households, the Harrison House Shelter operated by Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency and the Peter Babcock House which proves housing and care for AIDS patients. 

County officials hope they can eventually wipe out chronic homelessness, but, except for the new Livermore facility, the money from HUD will not expand services at a time when, anecdotal evidence suggests, the need for essential services is growing. 

Fire Station 5 in South Berkeley has had to turn away homeless after they ran out of blankets, said Capt. Rod Foster. “There’s been more demand this year than any other year I recall,” he said. “[The Blankets] were flying out of here.” 

Over Thanksgiving, the Alameda County Community Food Bank had to turn away needy after it ran out of food, said Executive Director Suzan Bateson. “We’re struggling to make ends meet,” she said, adding that her organization had received about 400,000 pounds of food—about the same as last year—but that need is up 35 percent. 

Schatz said that cutbacks to Medical and other state programs have added to the ranks of the needy and strained the county’s service delivery system, including emergency shelters and case management services. 

Berkeley services face cuts as well. Last week Barton had to submit 20 percent department-wide cuts to help the city dig itself out from a massive budget deficit. Though the final cuts will likely fall short of 20 percent, they will likely impact the city’s $1.6 million homeless budget, three-fourths of which goes to support the city’s 250 emergency shelter beds as well as emergency support services such as meals, showers and drop-in centers. 

“We’ll look for areas where there’s efficiencies by merging programs,” he said adding he would seek the input of citizen commissions to prioritize services. 

Anyone wanting to make a donation to the food bank can contribute at a local Safeway or Albertsons or call 834-3663.

Feeding Junk Food to the Poor

By Shana White Pacific News Service
Friday December 26, 2003

SAN JOSE—Every holiday season, people are told to donate canned food or money to the local food bank to feed our community. I always assumed the food being donated was healthy. I was wrong.  

Now, perhaps more than ever, it seems like there are a lot of young people in the South Bay Area who don’t have the money to eat a decent meal. Food banks help by giving food to “low-income” families or organizations. But not all food is good food. If donated food is unhealthy, it isn’t helping the problem of hunger—it’s making it worse.  

Recently, I tried to get some food for people I know who could use the help. I went with my cousin to a local food bank to get essentials like bread, cereal and eggs. 

The food bank was located in a warehouse in back of an office building. Very unnoticeable. When we got inside, I looked around and saw packaged food everywhere. Everything from macaroni and cheese to frozen packed soups; there was also fruit, milk, ice cream and 50-pound bags of potatoes and onions. More food than you can imagine, stacked on metal shelves. In the back of the warehouse, some older white people were busy putting food in boxes. 

We signed in to get carts, which were just like the ones they use in Home Depot to pull lumber. We were given a list of things that we could get. The things we weren’t allowed to get were U.S. Department of Agriculture food items. These were the canned juices, meat and much of the produce, which were reserved for organizations that had been approved by the food bank—mainly homeless shelters and senior centers. 

The problem is that a lot of young people who need good food aren’t at homeless shelters. A lot of them are like myself, people who are working, but all their money goes to rent and bills.  

I have friends, family and even colleagues who are in the same position as me. Some of them have kids and, after paying rent, car notes and credit card bills, must try to save enough money to buy groceries. Sometimes when that money gets spent, they are stuck eating Top Ramen noodle soup or greasy lunchmeat for a week. Or they end up eating food that is quickly made, cheap and quick to eat like fried chicken wings or lunch truck burritos. They find themselves gaining weight even though they are busting sweat at work. The kinds of people who usually do this are around 20-25 years old, low-income, working-class people who are living from check to check.  

In the aisles of the food bank, there were some boxes we called “mystery boxes” because inside of them was a variety of food that was donated from random people. That’s what we were allowed to get, and we must have hauled back 20 of those boxes.  

We went from aisle to aisle getting things like cookies, pasta, crates of candy, crackers and spices. Basically, what people threw out when they were cleaning out their kitchen shelves. There was some healthy food, but it wasn’t anything people would want: near-spoiled pineapples, for example, or cheese that didn’t taste good. You know, the kind of cheese that if you put it in between two slices of bread and meat you would still spit out. By the end of the day, we had so much food. Luckily we had two trucks to haul it.  

I gave out all the food to young people who were providing for themselves and their families. We went back a couple of more times, but we soon realized we were coming back with more junk food than healthy food. It made me wonder: Why are we getting so many sweets? It wasn’t that we were just picking it, it was just that the healthy food wasn’t reserved for us. We were choosing between the Baby Ruths or the spoiled pineapples.  

I understand that you have to accept what you have been offered. But if the food you are eating is putting your health at risk for things like obesity or tooth decay, then accepting that food is not worth it. Even people with good intentions can sometimes bring on contradictions and not know it. When I serve hungry people food, even if they are broke, I don’t want their free breakfast to be a Butterfinger and a can of soda. 

Shana White, 23, is a writer with Silicon Valley De-Bug, a PNS publication by young workers, writers and artists in Silicon Valley, and Youth Outlook, a PNS publication for Bay Area youth.

Berkeley High Library Will Reopen in January

Friday December 26, 2003

For Berkeley High Librarian Ellie Goldstein-Erickson, Christmas break is no vacation. 

On Tuesday morning, with students and teachers basking in a two-week recess, Goldstein-Erickson sloshed through puddles, working overtime to put the final touches on the school’s long-awaited new library—scheduled to open when students return Jan. 5. 

“It’s going to be magnificent,” she said. “I’m just hoping we can start services on the fifth.” 

Construction workers and specially trained, Dewey Decimal-literate library movers worked along side Goldstein-Erickson Tuesday, racing against the clock to complete the new library and administrative offices—the first stage of a $34 million campus development to finally come on line. 

After repeated setbacks, a new pool, dance studio, two gyms with a locker room and student union with a food court are scheduled to open in March, offering exciting new opportunities for students but tough choices for district officials who must find a way to staff the facilities despite a $2.4 million budget deficit. 

Completion of the library and administrative wing will mark the campus’s recovery from a 2000 arson fire that gutted the “B” Building and condemned the high school to nearly four years of administrative trailers, portable classrooms and a library better suited for an elementary school. 

Now, however, the library is set go from munchkin to marvel.  

Designed like a New York City loft, the roughly 12,000-square-foot space features windows that rise to the slanted wood paneled ceiling, oozing natural light even on an overcast morning. 

Yet after three years occupying two classrooms in the “H” building that held about 10,000 books and 70 students, Goldstein-Erickson focused on the facility’s practical benefits. 

The new library will house a computer lab, an instructional alcove for a teacher to give lessons on a computerized projector, a reading annex with soft, squishy chairs, an archive to store school memorabilia, a work room for librarians to process shipments and shelf space for about 40,000 books. 

“For the first time since the fire, we’ll have the whole collection back together again,” said Susie Goodin, a part-time district librarian who is coordinating the move. Over the past several years, she said, Berkeley has purchased books through a state grant but had to store many at East Campus along with older volumes because it lacked self space. 

There’s a hitch though. With the countdown on, the library is still incomplete: The computer room is missing its 41 computers, the furniture hasn’t been assembled, the floor is unwaxed, columns lack paneling, and there’s still no sign of the new circulation desk. 

The last-minute squeeze at the library is emblematic of the entire Milvia Street construction project, which has been beset with delays. Originally scheduled for completion in April, construction crews got off to a rough start when they discovered an old PG&E storage tank while digging. That delay was compounded by late deliveries of steel, pushing the due date for the project to this summer. 

A district decision to switch food service equipment and problems with subcontractors that missed deadlines or bailed on the project, among other delays, pushed the estimated completion date to January, and now March for the gym, dance studio, student union and pool, said Director of Facilities and Maintenance Lew Jones. 

When the work is done, the district will have to find $242,957 to staff the buildings—a tough pill to swallow considering the budget deficit. 

At last week’s school board meeting, the board, after a lengthy debate, voted 3-1-1 to approve funding for a new librarian to help manage the larger space and the equivalent of two new custodians and 2.66 new safety officers. 

When asked by Director Joaquin Rivera how she planned to pay for new staff, Superintendent Michele Lawrence intimated that the district would have to make cuts elsewhere. 

“There’s no magic bullets, here,” she said. “We have created a building over there and it has to be staffed.” 

Director Terry Doran took a different tack, saying the current staffing proposal amounted to “a skeletal crew,” and he fears that without adequate staff the buildings could deteriorate prematurely. 

Meanwhile, work continues at the library. Goodin said that wiring could be completed Tuesday, allowing them to set up the computer tables in advance of the computers that are due to arrive within two weeks. By that time the floor should be polished and the tables assembled, though it appears Goldstein-Erickson will have to start the new era with her old circulation desk, though that didn’t seem to faze her. 

“No matter what,” she said, “come Jan. 5, I’ll be here saying hello at the front door.”

Rush to IRV Ballots Raises Troubling Questions

By Gordon Wozniak
Friday December 26, 2003

In the United States, the most common election system is to have each voter choose one candidate, and the person who garners the most votes wins, regardless of whether that person has achieved a majority. There are many alternative methods for picking one winner out of a field of candidates. Some examples are listed below: 


Runoffs or Sequential Voting 

Each voter chooses one candidate, but to win, a candidate must gain a specific fraction of the votes, often a majority. If no candidate wins that fraction, a second election is held between the top votegetters. 


The Borda Count 

Named for Jean-Charles de Borda, a French physicist, the Borda count requires each voter to rank the candidates and assign points. The Associated Press and the Coaches Poll use the Borda count to rank teams in certain college sports. 


Approval Voting 

Each voter gives one vote to each candidate of whom he or she approves. The candidate with the most approval votes wins.  


Instant Runoff or Single Transferable Vote 

In this method, voters rank two or more of the candidates. If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, the second-place votes of the losing candidate(s) are transferred to the remaining candidates. This procedure is repeated until one candidate gains a majority or a plurality after a specified number of rounds. 

Recently, the Berkeley City Council voted to place an unspecified form of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) on the March 2004 ballot (Measure I) leaving the final choice to a future City Council. 

The “full preferential” form of IRV used in Australian gives a winner with a “true majority” of the total votes cast. However, its drawback is that the voter must rank all candidates or his/her ballot is spoiled. For example, if full preference IRV had been used in the recent California governor’s election, voters would have been required to rank all 135 candidates or their ballot would not be counted! 

A form of “optional preference” IRV is currently used in London to elect its mayor. In this form, voters rank only first and second choice candidates. If no candidate receives a majority of the first-choice votes, all but the top two candidates are eliminated simultaneously. Ballots that rank eliminated candidates first are then counted for whichever remaining candidate is listed second on each ballot. Ballots which rank another eliminated candidate second are treated as if no second choice was provided.  

The chief disadvantages of this form of IRV is that many second choice votes are not counted and the winner can be elected with only a plurality. For example, in the 2000 London mayoral election, of the 581,761 first choice votes for eliminated candidates, 36 percent were counted in the second round and 64 percent were not. Thus, several hundred thousand voters were effectively disenfranchised. 

Let us now examine some of the claims of the proponents of IRV. One claim is that IRV increases voter participation. All forms of IRV, except for “full preference”, result in decreased participation in the higher rounds. For example, in the London mayoral election only 78 percent of the voters had their ballots counted in the second round. Furthermore, because of the incompatibility of the traditional and IRV ballots, the Alameda County registrar has refused to allow municipalities that use IRV to consolidate with the county. Thus, a Berkeley IRV election would have to be conducted on a separate date from the county election with a dramatically lower voter turnout. 

A second claim is that “all voters have a chance to participate in selecting the winner.” The 2000 London mayoral election has shown this claim to be false since 373,508 votes were not counted in the second round, which produced the winner. 

A third claim is that IRV will save tax dollars. Because Alameda County has stated that it will not allow IRV elections to be consolidated with the county elections, the Berkeley city clerk has estimated that a special IRV election would cost more than the both the general and runoff elections combined. 

A fourth claim is that IRV is simple and easy. On this topic the Alameda County registrar has stated “As an election official with nearly 20 years experience conducting elections, I can assure you that this type of system would result in very high numbers of disqualified ballots and disenfranchised voters.” 

Putting Measure I on the ballot is premature for the following reasons: 

1. There are no forms of IRV that are presently certified by the State of California 

2. There are currently no voting machines that can handle mixed traditional and IRV voting on both regular and absentee ballots. 

3. If IRV where to be used in the November 2004 election, it would be more costly, because Berkeley would not be allowed to consolidate its election with Alameda County.  

4. Only half of Berkeley’s elected offices are proposed to use IRV. Rent and school board offices would be excluded. 

5. Claims of increased voter participation in IRV are not borne out by London’s recent mayoral election and would be drastically lower if a special Berkeley IRV election were held. 

6. Due to the increased complexity of an IRV ballot relative to a traditional ballot, spoiled ballots will be more common. 

7. The present ballot measure does not specify which form of IRV would be implemented. Most forms of IRV do not count all ballots nor require a majority to win. 

Voting systems play an important role in sustaining our democracy and should not be changed without a careful evaluation. Although our present plurality voting system has faults, it has one overwhelming advantage: It is simple enough that the majority of people can understand it. All alternative voting systems have a common devil, complexity. Since the deficiencies associated with Instant Runoff Voting depend crucially on its particular form, it is important to know which form of IRV is being proposed before you vote and not leave this essential choice to the discretion of a future City Council. 


Gordon Wozniak is a Berkeley City Councilmember. 


Berkeley Store Slammed for Peddling Stereotypes

By Jakob Schiller
Friday December 26, 2003

Urban Outfitters, the clothing and boutique chain that found itself mired in controversy over the board game “Ghettopoly,” might draw heat again after distributing a shirt that some say stereotypes Jewish women. 

Berkeley resident Baitiya Jacobs found the t-shirts, featuring the words “Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl,” accompanied by several dollar signs, sufficiently outrageous to consider filing a complaint. 

“It’s a very negative cultural stereotype that’s dangerous,” said Jacobs, who is Jewish. “It’s really offensive.” 

The shirt is one of a series that include other ethnic stereotypes, including “Everybody Loves an Italian Girl” with a picture of a pizza slice, “Everybody Loves a German Girl” alongside a beer mug, and “Everybody Loves an Irish Girl,” featuring a shamrock. 

“I don’t even know why they threw ‘Jew’ in,” said Jacobs. “And if they did, it could have been a bagel.” 

The release of the shirts follows last year’s uproar over a series of shirts released by Abercrombie & Fitch that featured caricatures similar to those produced in the early 20th century of Asian men with slanted eyes and conical hats. The shirts bore the slogan “Wong Brothers Laundry Service—Two Wongs Can Make It White.” 

After protests erupted across the country outside the stores the shirts were yanked in less than a week. 

“The t-shirts were caricatures, and it’s something that our society would certainly be outraged about if it was a depiction of African Americans or Latinos here in California, but there is not that same level of awareness about the Asian American community,” said Vic Malhotra, a policy advocate for Chinese for Affirmative Action, a San Francisco based organization. 

“It was important for the community to voice that outrage, not only to force them to pull the t-shirts, but also to build awareness that this kind of humor is completely unacceptable,” he said. 

Urban Outfitter’s Regional Director refused to comment on the shirts other than to say no official complaints had been filed. Nonetheless, organizations in the Bay Area, when alerted, said the imagery raises concern. 

“I’m frankly very concerned,” said Abby Porth, from the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), the public affairs arm for the numerous Jewish organizations in the Bay Area. “That kind of stereotyping is dangerous for a variety of reasons. Jewish women, like all women, are multi-dimensional beings. They are diverse in their perspectives and beliefs.” 

Porth, along with Deborah Louria, regional director for the JCRC’s East Bay office, say the imagery also promotes the image of what is commonly referred to as a JAP, or Jewish American Princess. 

“This introduces the idea to a whole new generation after so much work to try and put the stereotype to rest,” said Louria. “It does a disservice to not just Jewish women but to all women.” 

The imagery of money is the real sticking point for most organizations contacted, referring back to the age-old derogatory classification of Jews as greedy. 

A representative from the National Italian American Foundation took offense at the imagery of a pizza slice on the “Everybody Loves an Italian Girl” but was able to distinguish between that and the severity of the dollar signs on the Jewish shirt. 

“Historically Italian Americans have a problem where we’re stereotyped as gangsters, buffoons, and restaurant workers,” he said.  

“The [Italian shirt] is much more benign than some of these other ones… The difference is in the Italian American community nobody bats an eye when [Italians are stereotyped]. It’s acceptable.”  

Because the shirts haven’t generated much criticism yet, both Porth and Louria say the JCRC has not investigated. Meantime, they urged consumers to voice their concern to the store. 

“I would hope that people don’t purchase and wear the shirts, but also communicate to the people who are trying to make a profit from them that they be removed from the shelves,” said Porth. “This isn’t about freedom of speech but about negative stereotyping that disintegrates the moral fabric of society.”

UC Enrollment Holds Steady

by Matthew Artz
Friday December 26, 2003

UC Berkeley enrollment held steady this year, according to final registration figures released last week. 

In all, 23,206 undergraduate students and 9,870 graduate students enrolled at the Berkeley campus this fall, for a total of 33,076—just 69 fewer students than last year. 

To keep education quality high in the face of mounting budget deficits, UC Berkeley has sought to hold enrollment steady, said Assistant Vice Chancellor for Admissions and Enrollment Richard Black in a written statement. 

UC Berkeley enrolled 3,652 freshman this year, three fewer than in fall 2002. 

The ethnic breakdown of the freshman class remained basically unchanged from last year, with groups enrollment rising or dipping by less than a percentage point. 

Asian Americans comprised 45 percent of incoming freshman, followed by whites at 30 percent, Latinos at 11 percent, African Americans at 4 percent and Native Americans at 0.5 percent. Students who chose to define themselves as “other” or who declined to state their ethnicity represented about 10 percent. 

Woman comprised 54 percent of the undergraduate population, while males accounted for 54 percent of graduate students. 

—Matthew Artz

Police Blotter

Friday December 26, 2003

Online Fraud 

San Francisco police are warning patrons of Bay Area community website Craigslist.org that they could fall prey to a check scam. 

Craig Newmark, the website’s owner, told police that he has received hundreds of reports that his online classified section has been used to defraud people with fake cashier’s checks. 

Police say suspects with a Nigerian address contact folks running ads on the site. The con man claims to want to buy merchandise, and sends the victim a counterfeit cashier’s check for more than the value of the item. 

The victim is then instructed to cash the check at a bank and mail back any excess money via Western Union. That money is sent back to the Nigerian account. 

Eventually the check proves to be a forgery and the victim’s bank penalizes him for the entire amount of the fake check. 


Strong Arm Robberies 

Six juveniles stole a purse from a woman at the intersection of Harrison Street and San Pablo Avenue at approximately 7:45 p.m. Sunday evening, police said. 

Police arrested three men in connection with a robbery on at University Avenue and McGee Street at approximately 11:15 p.m. Friday night. Berkeley Police spokesperson Kevin Schofield said a group of teenagers approached the victim and grabbed his wallet before fleeing in a car. Shortly thereafter, police stopped a car that matched the victim’s description and arrested Justin King, 18, of Richmond, along with two others whose identities the police dispatch system failed to provide.



Wednesdays At La Farine

By Irene Sardanis
Tuesday December 30, 2003

If I were blind, there’s one place I’d easily find by following the seductive smells of bread and desserts emanating from their ovens. I’m talking about my favorite bakery, La Farine. Every Wednesday morning I frequent the store on my way to the office. I’m hungry when I arrive, eager to bite into a buttery croissant or scone. 

To the right as I enter, there is a huge oval oak table. It beckons me to sit down, have a café-au-lait, a croissant and relax, European-style. Translation: in a slow, relaxed, unhurried, civilized manner. 

Mexican nannies come in with their strollers and babies. I watch as the women order morning buns and lovingly feed the children from their hands. They know me now. I talk to their adorable children and gently pinch their cheeks. 

One morning I arrived to hear two women shouting. There was one croissant left in the basket and they were fighting over it. 

“I think I was in line before you,” one woman said assertively. 

“Well, I think you are mistaken,” replied the other, hand on hip. “I ordered that croissant first.” 

On and on they went until the owner came out and settled the matter by giving the croissant to one and a morning bun to the other, without charge. 

Other people around the table may be strangers to one another. Still, a respectful appreciation exists for this bakery’s tasteful breads, cakes and fruit tarts. 

I watch as they all have their own style of approaching their scones or chocolatines. One woman will delicately pinch off a piece and slowly put it in her mouth. A construction-type male will tear off hunks and eat the bread with gusto. No matter. I know they all love whatever comes out of the bakery oven. 

Some newcomers, visitors from other places, hesitate before ordering a morning bun, the round, cinnamon-filled, buttery, delicious sweet bread. I recall a woman, luggage in hand, apparently enroute to the airport, tasting one hesitantly, then quickly ordering the whole basket to go. She saw my surprised look. 

“They don’t have these where I’m going in New York,” she said apologetically. I smiled at here reassuringly. I understood. 

I watch the people around the table. Some are reading the newspaper, some conversing with their children, a friend. Some students write in lined notebooks. A common bond forms among us. 

A warmth from strangers sitting around a table breaking bread together. We may not know one another or ever meet again, but there’s an appreciation for the good food we silently share together. La Farine has become a weekly ritual. A spiritual practice. When I leave the bakery, I feel full inside, not just from the croissants, but the contact with others who share my love of good food around a table.

Under Currents: Saddam Offers Dubya a Chance to Eclipse Poppy

Friday December 26, 2003

Early one morning last week I woke up to a driving rainstorm outside. The television had been left on for some reason. I lay and watched the public humiliation of an old man, officials probing his hair for lice. This was the monster who menaced the world? I wondered how many others heard echoes of the line from Lawrence of Arabia (“Now we see him without his armor and magic cloaks, bereft of friends and sword, reduced here to his bare and tawdry essence for all eyes to view: a little man, greedy, barbarous, and cruel”), applied, in that case, to the Arab people as a whole. And therein lies the danger in our treatment of the captive, Saddam Hussein. 

Tolstoy believed that time and great events drove great men, rather than the opposite. Bonaparte did not invade Russia so much as he was led there, impelled by the pressure of all the world swirling around him. Perhaps. But within these irresistible currents, we can sometimes observe the path the swimmer takes. And so we watch the journey of George W. Bush, fascinated, as he tows the world we know along behind him. To our doom, perhaps. 

There has always been something of the woebegone and the ne’er-do-well surrounding little George, despite the protestations of our Republican friends (Look! they crow, at how he displayed leadership this morning, as if that were not the opening requirement of the presidency, but rather its ultimate goal). Little George. The frat-boy son, screw-up son, the spigot of a beer keg clutched in one hand, a fistful of failed accomplishments in another. Always in need of a bailout. Not like Jeb. The good son. The steady son. The son of sons. The one being groomed for president. 

Oh, how it must have galled little George, as they crowed and cooed over his younger brother. Galled him, too, as he measured the journey of his own life against the towering accomplishments of his father. 

Papa George, after all, was a member of that Greatest American Generation, that odd title pasted on by news anchor Tom Brokaw (not to denigrate the conquerors of Tokyo and Berlin, but it would be difficult to place them in stature above those who fought the Civil War, or who took up arms—with little hope of a future short of the hangman’s noose—against the redcoat British; but that’s an argument for another day). For little George, weaned in the shadow of his war hero father, then watching him stand as Barbarossa, the great Christian commander, the Holy Roman Emperor, rallying the world around him, banners and pennants flying, leading the nations on the last Crusade, scattering the Saracens in his path, burning their villages, hearing the lamentations of their women, driving a stake into the wicked heart of their infidel capital. 

What can a son do, after all, to gain the respect of such a towering figure of a father? Surpass him in his one failed accomplishment. And one thing that the Greatest Generation failed to do, and the Gulf War, likewise, was to come home with the monster, in tow, dragging him through the dust behind the war chariot for the cheering crowds to rain down refuse and spit upon. 

I am fairly certain that for the soldiers entering 1945 Berlin—Russian and American alike—it did not much matter that Adolph Hitler blew his brains out in his bunker, one step ahead of capture. The world, I am sure, breathed a sigh of relief that Hitler was gone, and a threat no more. The generals of ‘91 drove to the outskirts of Baghdad and then called a halt to their troops, reasoning, we are told, that a burning Iraq, lawless, leaderless, and in chaos, was more of a threat to American security than a weakened Hussein. 

But to little George—who passed, one may remember, the chance to go a-soldiering with the men of his own generation—these lessons may not have mattered. To sit at the dinner gathering opposite his father—in a chair as tall and ornate—may be all that was important. And so once more to Baghdad. And the streets of Tikrit. And the spider hole. 

At the end—at the crucial moment—Sadaam Hussein failed of nerve. We are told that he sought the victory of history, that he foresaw, in his own firestorm of demise, a bright, burning signal on a sandy hill, a rally signal for his people, a guide and a symbol for all the ages. Instead, he surrendered without a shot. Head hung, he shambled into our living rooms in shame and disgrace. How could we have feared him, so? This little man. This bent and broken man. Look how we can humiliate him, and he has not even the nerve to raise his eyes. 

But in the public humiliation of Sadaam Hussein there is great peril for the future. It can be too easily construed—by each side, in its own way—as the humiliation of an entire people. A multitude came in from dusty, sand-strewn streets to watch the spectacle of disgrace. Dirty Arab! Fakir! And in those thousand eyes, dark eyes, desert eyes, what will we see reflected back? Resignation? Defeat and growing admiration for their conquerors? Or the smoldering, unbanked fires of redemption’s need? A little man. Therefore, a little people. How must they rise, to reclaim their place in the sun? 

And therein, my friends, lies the danger.