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Members of Berkeley’s Persian community gathered Monday night to plan a fund-raiser for victims of the Bam quake. Clocwise from front left are Parisa Javaheri, Kay Diarra, Pedram Falsafi, Nilofar Nouri (president of the Persian Center), and Soheyl Modarressi.
Members of Berkeley’s Persian community gathered Monday night to plan a fund-raiser for victims of the Bam quake. Clocwise from front left are Parisa Javaheri, Kay Diarra, Pedram Falsafi, Nilofar Nouri (president of the Persian Center), and Soheyl Modarressi.


Diverse Schools Suffer Under Bush Programs

Friday January 02, 2004

President Bush likes to say diversity is America’s greatest strength. But when it comes to schools seeking a passing grade under the landmark education law he championed, a diverse student body can be a school district’s greatest liability, according to a study released by Berkeley-based Policy Analysis for California Education. 

“Washington policy makers are earnestly trying to identify mediocre schools,” said study co-author John Novak, a statistician at the University of Southern California. “Yet, we discovered hundreds of middle-class schools that the feds began to penalize this fall, schools that are only guilty of enrolling diverse children.” 

The study found that schools with multiple student subgroups are more likely to trigger the minefield of sanctions buried in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law—even though their students scored about as well on standardized tests as students in less diverse schools. 

This year, three-fourths of Berkeley schools and nearly half of all California schools failed to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) mandated by the law, potentially triggering a series of penalties under the Bush legislation. 

No Child Left Behind requires California schools to test 95 percent of their students and show that 16 percent of students test proficient in math and 13.6 percent in reading. Standards must rise incrementally until all students are required to achieve proficiency by 2014. 

Additionally, all statistically significant subgroups—including ethnic and racial groups, English-learners, the socio-economically disadvantaged, and learning disabled—must meet federal standards. If any statistically significant group—tallied as 15 percent of a school’s population—fails, the school as a whole fails. 

Under these criteria, 12 of Berkeley’s 16 schools failed to make AYP this year. All but one of the schools—Rosa Parks—met performance goals, but they fell short on the 95 percent participation requirement. State law allows parents to opt out of standardized tests, making the quota tough to meet. 

Though Berkeley wasn’t included in the study, local results among elementary schools support the researchers’ findings. 

Of four Berkeley schools that count five statistically significant subgroups—White, African American, Latino, English Learner and Socio-economic Disadvantaged—three, Washington, Cragmont and Rosa Parks, have been labeled failing under No Child Left Behind. None of the six schools that count either two or three subgroups have yet faced federal sanctions. 

Designed to raise achievement levels for all students, especially those belonging to ethnic groups that have traditionally lagged on standardized tests, the law has unintentionally directed its bevy of stigmatizing penalties at schools serving the populations lawmakers are trying to help, the study concludes. 

Among schools that enroll fewer than 25 percent of students from poor families, 80 percent of schools with two subgroups met their AYP, compared to 53 percent for schools with six subgroups. Poor students were defined as qualifying for federal Title 1 money—roughly a family income of $24,000. 

Among poorer schools where between 50 and 75 percent of students are disadvantaged, 74 percent of schools with two subgroups met AYP, compared to 21 percent for schools with six subgroups. 

Even more damning, standardized test scores among schools in the same economic bracket are nearly identical—even though diverse schools face longer odds in meeting federal standards. For schools with between 50 to 75 percent of their students disadvantaged, the odds of meeting their AYP dropped by 16 percent between schools with three versus five subgroups—even though their cumulative scores were equal. 

“Good intentions have gone awry,” said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy and co-author of the study. “It’s simply more difficult to flip a silver dollar and get three tails in a row than to get one.”  

Adding to the confusion, Fuller said, is that California measures school performance based on annual standardized test performance growth, not benchmarks. Of the roughly 3,000 California schools that failed to make AYP this year, Fuller said, just under 2,100 of the schools received passing grades under the state standards. 

“A lot of principals feel cynical towards the federal system, because it gives them a contradictory message,” Fuller said. 

In Berkeley, for instance, academic performance at Washington Elementary has improved 40 basis points since 2000—from 689 to 729 according to state calculations. However, the school was labeled failing under No Child Left Behind after low-income students failed to meet goals for two years followed by the school failing to hit the 95 percent test attendance benchmark this year. 

Now in year two of program improvement required under federal law, not only must Washington Elementary inform parents about its status and offer them a chance to transfer, but they must divert much of their Title 1 money to provide extra academic tutoring. Penalties increase through year five, when the district would have to change the governance of the school. 

Fuller criticized the federal government’s “all stick and no carrot” approach. “The question is, are the feds just stigmatizing schools that have more subgroups even though they are equally effective?” 

He recommended rewarding schools that show overall progress, while noting when some subgroups fail to meet standards. He also urged state education boards to lobby for permission to devise their own methods for closing achievement gaps, including a simpler set of student subgroups. 

Fuller noted that schools with high concentrations of Latino students often suffer a triple whammy because many Latino students are simultaneously counted as Latino, English-learners, and socio-economically disadvantaged. 

“We’re not questioning the Bush administration’s admirable goals,” he said. “But our findings do suggest that the new federal rules are yielding unintended and demoralizing effects inside many local schools.”

Berkeley This Week

Friday January 02, 2004


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, in Tilden Park. 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. 287-8948. 

Berkeley Biodiesel Cooperative Orientation at 7:30 p.m. Call for location. 594-4000 x777. berkeleybiodiesel@yahoo.com 

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. 548-0425. 


American Red Cross Blood Services volunteer orientation from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at 6230 Claremeont Ave., Oakland. Volunteers are needed to support the more than 40 blood drives held each month. Advance sign-up required, 594-5165. 

Dick Penniman’s Avalanche Safety Lecture from 6 to 9 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Fee is $20. 527-4140. For information on additional avalanche safety courses see snowbridge.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 


Junior Skywatchers Club We’ll take a closer look at the earth’s moon through binoculars, and make moon calendars for the New Year. From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, in Tilden Park. 525-2233. tnarea@ebparks.org  

Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition Volunteer Night Come help fold newsletters, enter prospective members names into our database, and From 6 to 8 p.m. at 1336C Channing. 549-7433. vc@bfbc2.org 

Walk with the Berkeley Path Wanderers Meet at Live Oak Park, Walnut and Berryman, at 10 a.m. 981-5367. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Sta- 

tion, corner of Shattuck and Center. Vigil at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Amnesty International Berkeley Community Group meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1606 Bonita Ave., at Cedar St. Join fellow human rights activists to help promote social justice one individual at a time. 872-0768. 

Berkeley CopWatch open office hours 7 to 9 p.m. Drop in to file complaints, assistance available. For information call 548-0425. 

Berkeley Communicators Toastmasters meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 7:15 a.m. at Hide-A-Way Café, 6430 Telegraph Ave. For information call Fred Garvey, 925-682-1111, ext. 164. 

Free Feldenkrais ATM Classes for adults 55 and older at 10:30 and 11:45 a.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut at Rose. For information call 848-0237. 


The Ecocity Sessions with Richard Register A six- week course meets Tues. evenings introducing ecocity theory. Cost is $150. For information call Kirsten Miller 419-0850. kleighmi@flash.net 

“Senior Services and the Philosophy of Geriatrics” with Ellen Bloomfield, Emeryville Senior Center, Aisha Boykin, Albany Center, and Lisa Ploss, City of Berkeley, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Albany Public Library, Edith Stone Room,1247 Marin Ave. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters. 843-8824. 

Snowshoeing Workshop for Women at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

East Bay Mac User Group meets on the second Thursday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m. in the 3rd floor Community Room, Berkeley Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St. http://ebmug.org

Arts Calendar

Friday January 02, 2004



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. 



“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, a reading room, library and community center in South Berkeley located at 3124 Shattuck Ave. Donation of $3-$5. 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. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Guarneri Jazz Quartert at 8 p.m. at The Jazz House. Donations of $8-$15 suggested. 649-8744. www.thejazzhouse.org 



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 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 at 3:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 



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

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

848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 



Juan Diego Flórez, tenor, at 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $32-$56, available from 642-9988. www.calperfs.berkeley.edu 

Tribute to Babtunde Olatunje with Arsenio Kounde at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

Dayna Stephens House Jam at 8 p.m. at The Jazz House. Donation $5. 649-8744.  




Preschool Storytime, introducing books and music to promote early literacy skills, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library West Branch, 1125 University Ave. 981-6270. 


Chad Hinman and Cat Kinsey perform modern folk at the 1923 Teahouse at 8 p.m. Suggested donation of $7-$10. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org 

Whiskey Brothers performs oldtime bluegrass at 9 p.m. at at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Jules Broussard, Bing Nathan and Ned Boynton at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



Shotgun Players, “The Death of Meyerhold,” through Jan 23 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Thurs.-Sat. performances at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12-$18, available from 925-798-1300. 704-8210. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Christopher Baker, author of “Moon Handbook: Cuba” at 7:30 p.m. at Easy Going Bookstore, 1385 Shattuck Ave at Rose, 843-3533. 


“A Little Night Music” with the New Century Chamber Orchestra at 8 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. For ticket information call 415-392-4400. www.ncco.org 

Punk Show with Tempo at 8 p.m. at the Long Haul, a reading room, library and community center in South Berkeley located at 3124 Shattuck Ave. Donation of $3-$5 requested, no one turned away. Wheelchair accessible. 540-0751. www.thelonghaul.org 

Stunt Monkey, Fountain Street Theater Band, Spinning Jennies at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  


The Jeb Brady Band, acoustic americana, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $15.50 in advance, $16.50 at the door. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

San Francisco Mdicine Ball at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  


Letters to the Editor

Friday January 02, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I think it is as important to exclaim “a job well done!” as it is to decry one not getting done. I have a happy ending to report regarding the “Neighborhood Eyesore” (Letters, Daily Planet, Dec. 2-4) On Dec. 23 all of the debris, mobile home, and occupants were removed from the property in the 2800 block of San Pablo Avenue by the city of Berkeley. I have personally thanked the city officials who worked most closely with this case by phone and e-mail, but I also wanted to just say a formal thank you to the Zoning Enforcement Team, Zoning Adjustments Board, and to the many other people whom I do not know but played a part in this work. 

Our neighborhood response has been ecstatic! It is rewarding to know that when many people work together that a problem can be solved. 

Nancy Ellis  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Dec. 16-18 edition of the Daily Planet had a quote from me regarding the possibility of UC losing the LBNL management contract. I would like to add the clarification that the quote represents a personal opinion. Although I am a lab employee, I do not represent lab management or lab employees. 

I would like to further note that the headline, “Bush Put Lab Future in Doubt,” is easy to misinterpret. It is the future of UC’s contract with the lab that is in doubt, not the lab and its activities. 

Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Green Party member, I read with great interest Rob Wren’s incisive analysis of San Francisco’s Dec. 9 mayoral runoff election (“Absentees Proved Crucial in Newsom Victory,” Daily Planet, Dec. 19-22). 

In the aftermath of Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez’s impressive vote total (nearly 48 percent), Gonzalez’s accomplishment potentially bodes well for San Francisco becoming a city with two competitive political parties—rather than a single party with an entrenched political establishment. 

The San Francisco Democratic Party establishment associated with former mayor Willie Brown and several San Francisco-based corporations—PG&E, ChevronTexaco, Gap and Bechtel—has been rudely jolted. 

Without exaggeration, Dec. 9 was an electoral watershed. As Wren indicated in his article, a voter alliance of Greens, independents and progressive Democrats nearly toppled Willie Brown’s candidate. Significantly, Gonzalez won the most votes that were actually cast on election day (receiving over 10,000 more votes than Newsom).  

As President of the Board of Supervisors, Matt Gonzalez will operate with a solid progressive Board majority enabling him to exercise, in effect, parallel political authority and influence to that of Mayor-elect Newsom.  

I would add that Gonzalez’s Dec. 9 election result was foreshadowed by Green Party candidate Peter Camejo’s historic second place finish during the 2002 gubernatorial election when Camejo received the highest San Francisco third party vote percentage since the early part of the 20th Century. 

Chris Kavanagh 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was concerned to read that Councilmember Gordon Wozniak is against rank-ordered voting for the March ballot in Berkeley, also called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). 

Surprisingly, Councilmember Wozniack’s top reason to block IRV seems to be: “There are no forms of IRV that are presently certified in the State of California.” Interesting. I’m wondering if he is aware that the current software version for the voting machines used in his own county were probably not certified by the State of California for the recall election. A recent audit of 17 random counties in the state turned up not a single county using software which was certified for the recall election. Since Wozniack is taking time to dismantle a potential for IRV, rather than exposing the voting software already being used in his own county, I must assume he is unaware of this disturbing fact. 

Why would a City Councilmember be so interested in the lack of certification for a system not yet in existence, but has nothing to say about the current uncertified system we are using today? 

For more information on the lack of certification of the Diebold software used in the recall, and other interesting facts not examined by either our City Councilmembers or our local corporate news outlets (such as former felons being on the payroll of Diebold, or that the Diebold system was voted “Worst Technology” for 2003 by Fortune Magazine), please see: www.blackboxvoting.org and www.blackboxvoting.com. 

I remain hopeful that councilmembers will re-focus their energies on issues which are already here, such as the highly disturbing dilemma of e-voting, rather than ones which are months away which hold the potential for increasing, rather than decreasing, voter participation, as have been shown in IRV systems used around the world www.fairvote.org/irv/faq.htm). 

Thankfully, the Berkeley Daily Planet has already shown the courage and integrity to expose information on the silent dilemma of electronic voting. 

Victoria Ashley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As I look at all the trash cans on my street overflowing with the boxes and wrappings of the holidays, the manifest greed that we teach our children (yes, even in Berkeley), I felt compelled to write to you about a column by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor (“Exemplary Actions From Thurmond’s Children,” Daily Planet, Dec. 19-22). I include it in the general heading, “Lies We Tell Our Children.” Or perhaps, “Pursuit of the Hallmark Moments.” 

We all now know that Strom Thurmond, when he was a 20-year-old college student, impregnated a 15-year-old house servant in 1924, and that the child born of that union is Ms. Essie Mae Washington Williams. Surely we are all sophisticated enough as to the racial history of the deep South to know that in 1924, a black female teenager in the employ of a rich white family had little choice in sexual matters. Indeed, it is undisputed that this was, if not forcible rape, at least statutory rape. It is also undisputed that the black community and Mr. Thurmond’s staff have known of Ms. Washington-Williams’ existence for many years or surely should have known of it. It simply was not a secret. Indeed, Allen-Taylor states he first heard Ms. Williams’ name more than 20 years ago. 

So I was distressed to read the following words in the Planet, describing the Thurmond family response: “‘I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams and I am free.’ Free, presumably, from a longtime burden of secrecy. But equally classy was the response from the late Sen. Thurmond’s white descendants. Asked if Ms. Washington-Williams’ claim was true, a spokesperson for Thurmond’s white children answered, simply, yes...‘We hope this acknowledgment will bring closure for Ms. Williams.’” 

No, this simple “yes” is not a classy response. There is nothing classy about this response. This is a 50-years-too-late response. A simple “no” was not an option, although the Jefferson descendants keep trying. It is not classy to admit to what is easily provable here in an era of DNA. It might have gone some distance if the white family had made an apology to the entire Washington-Williams family, who endured the racial and racist history both epitomized and personified in Strom Thurmond. 

This is all a little like asking us to think Mr. Pataki is a wonderful man, a new friend of the ACLU, because he pardoned Lenny Bruce for legal acts for which he was charged. That pardon may be a Hallmark moment for some, but not for Lenny, who was persecuted into an early death. 

No, our economy will not be saved by the greed we teach our children in December. No, a simple “yes” to the inevitable is not classy. No, it’s not all OK now that Lenny was right. 

Anna de Leon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Sharon Hudson for her incisive commentaries in Berkeley Daily Planet. In the Dec. 19-22 issue, she correctly writes about some of the staff of the Planning Department that “... Berkeley’s current zoning code and planning process would work pretty well if staff enacted them properly and in good faith.” I certainly agree with this statement. 

In the past year, I attended most of the public hearings before the City Council. In most cases, residents were appealing to the council unfair decisions made by the Zoning Board or the Planning Department in favor of corporations or developers. As I looked further into some cases, I reached the conclusion that the culprit was usually the Planning Department that by violating city laws, ordinances, and codes tried to deceive residents. 

In public hearings, residents usually present solid pieces evidence that show the Planning Department has acted against the law. These pieces of evidence are 

mostly documents prepared by the city offices and are available to the public, such as staff reports or action calendars. However, the Planning Department invariably tries to defend its misdeeds or to marginalize the evidence by deceitful rhetoric. 

I have reached the following conclusions: 1) if the Planning Department and the Zoning Board act lawfully, inform residents on time, and do not work against them, there would be fewer public hearings; 2) once a wrongful process starts and an unfair decision is made, appeal by residents is inevitable. The process of appealing and public hearing becomes like a nightmare for residents. This process is costly and unproductive for both residents and the city; 3) naturally, the ordeal make some members of the community believe “that the Planning Department staff is too closely allied with applicants. In particular, some are concerned that staff appear to act as advocate for a project rather than as impartial analysts;” to quote from Husdon’s commentary. 

To avoid problems and perhaps save money, the city should purge the staff members who are too closely allied with applicants and act as advocate for a project. 

Mina Davenport 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was sorry to read in the Daily Planet that Berkeley Unified School District has plans to construct a building on the site of the Berkeley High tennis courts, and I beg them to reconsider. Young people are more successful in school when they look forward to attending. Many enjoy participating in athletics. The school district should encourage them by providing the best possible athletic facilities. 

Greg Kalkanis 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

During her broadcast on Dec. 16, Diane Sawyer asked President Bush about the still-not-found WMDs in Iraq. “What’s the difference?” Bush, responded, “the possibility [was] that [Saddam Hussein] could acquire weapons.”  

Mr. Bush, the difference between a hypothetical “could” acquire weapons versus a genuine “has” the weapons is approximately 400 American lives lost, 4,000 Iraqi civilians killed, and $ 400 thousand million American taxpayer dollars wasted.  

It is unconscionable that the President, the chief steward of the public’s trust, would deceive us so gravely. Even worse if the well-coordinated lies from the Administration were actually a colossal, incompetent miscalculation.  

While political pundits yammer about Bush’s re-election, citizens are calling for his impeachment and incarceration. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Cal women’s basketball team is off to a great start! The Golden Bears concluded the non-conference season with a 7-2 record, their best start since the 1992-93 season. 

They need and deserve more community and university support. 

Expose your children and friends to a great group of athletes at a great university. 

We recently visited Eugene, Ore. and saw what great community support the University of Oregon Women’s Basketball receive—several thousand men, women, and children arrived in busloads for their game. 

Let us show what we can do in Berkeley. 

Daniel Horodysky

Oakland Exhibit Showcases Compelling Artist

By PETER SELZ Special to the Planet
Friday January 02, 2004

“David Ireland: The Way Things Are” gives an in-depth look at the work of one of the West Coast’s foremost artists. Although his work has been seen at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum, as well as in Rome, Zurich, Madrid and Kyoto, this is the first retrospective for the 77-year-old multi-talented artist. 

Born in Bellingham, Washington, Ireland came to Oakland and got his early training at the California College of Arts and Crafts, where emergent leading Bay Area artists—Robert Arneson, Robert Bechtele, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveira and Peter Voulkos— were enrolled at the same time. Ireland was exposed to many divergent ideas and took his degree in industrial arts and printmaking and worked as Oliveira’a assistant for a time. After a stint in the Army, he worked as an illustrator and traveled around Europe and Africa. 

From the mid-1960s to the early ‘70s, when the cultural revolution and political action was happening here, David Ireland led safaris in Africa. In his forties, however, he decided to become an artist and went back to school at the San Francisco Art Institute. 

Now his colleagues were the Bay Area Conceptualists and Installation Artists—Tom Marioni, Paul Kos, Terry Fox and Howard Fried among others. Ireland himself became a most resourceful and original artist to which this large exhibition testifies. 

Following in the footsteps of Marcel Duchamp and under the spell of John Cage, he made very simple objects from the most ordinary materials. Of greatest importance was his study of Zen, and a 1975 trip to India was liberating in abandoning rules and ideologies and accepting things “the way they are.” In the show we find pieces of wall, a rubber shoe, a collection of brooms set at an angle, a rubber band collection, chairs set on top of each other, a gigantic chair made of drywall and 16 feet high, an old three-legged chair and a “Duchamp Tree” made of chopped pieces of alder wood. There are many things in this show which we would overlook if they were not in museum context. 

But it was time to move away from making objects, even if they didn’t look like art pieces. After restoring the Museum of Conceptual Art in San Francisco to its original state prior to Tom Marioni’s occupancy, he went to work on a house on Capp Street, which had once belonged to a ship captain. In what was to become Ireland’s signature work, he spent two years stripping it of just about everything, including wallpaper, paint, baseboards, moldings, etc. 

As an artist he re-formed the material into a work of minimal simplicity. In 1980 he proceeded similarly when he converted former army barracks above the Pacific Ocean into what was to become the Headlands Center for the Arts, a place for residencies for exploratory artists. Ireland stripped dreary rooms of eight layers of wall paint, plaster and linoleum flooring and floated the dingy places with light. Together with the architect Mark Mack he designed and made the furniture for the place. 

The exhibition shows photographs of these buildings, but the most intriguing part of the show is called “Angel-Go-Around” (1996). It consists of a large collection of garden statues, nymphs, venuses, Michelangelo David’s—often the same figure in duplicate or triplicate, which are arranged in a circle. Above them, supported from the gallery’s ceiling, a motorized angel sweeps in circular flight over the statues, as if protecting the figures on the floor. What had once been art, and had become debased in kitsch, can now be experienced by the viewer on his/her own terms, relating to his/her own previous experience. 

The exhibition will be at the Oakland Museum of California through March 14.

Berkeley Persians Join To Aid Quake Victims

By John Geluardi Special to the Planet
Friday January 02, 2004

Members of Berkeley’s Persian community met this week to organize a Sunday evening dinner to raise cash and collect medical supplies for relief efforts in ancient city of Bam, Iran, where Friday’s 6.7 earthquake left at least 30,000 dead and thousands more injured and homeless.  

According to Red Cross estimates, the death toll could reach 50,000 by the time rescue teams reach all of the hundreds of small villages in the region. 

Members of Berkeley’s Persian Center are holding their Sunday fund-raiser at the Santa Fe Bistro, 2142 Center St., between 5 and 8 p.m. Guests are asked for a minimum donation of $100. 

“We are looking for new medicines such as antiseptics, antibiotics and pain relievers,” said Persian Center President Niloofar Nouri. “Everything that we collect will be sent to Iran immediately by Cyrus Travel which is volunteering transportation of medicines and doctors.” 

She said relief officials are discouraging donations of clothing and blankets because of the difficulty in shipping bulky supplies. “It is much more efficient to give money because so many of the things that are needed can be purchased in Iran,” Nouri said. 

Local Iranian businessman Soheyl Modarressi and Ahmad Behjati, proprietor of Santa Fe Bistro, are sponsoring Sunday’s fund-raiser. 

News of the earthquake had personal meaning for the 18 Berkeley residents who visited Bam during a humanitarian mission of the Wheelchair Foundation last April.  

While delivering donated wheelchairs to the regional capital of Kerman—about 150 miles north of Bam—the group, including former Berkeley Councilmember Polly Armstrong, Nouri, Modarressi and several city employees, took a side trip to tour the winding passageways and crumbling ramparts of the now-demolished 2,000-year-old citadel at Bam. 

“It was truly an amazing place,” said Armstrong. “It was one of the friendliest places I’ve ever visited. The people were so eager to visit with us.” 

Slides from their visit will be shown at the Santa Fe Bistro fund raising event. 

Modarressi said the Bam region “was already quite poor without the earthquake. It will take years for the city to recover.” 

The earthquake struck just before dawn while thousands of Bam residents were still sleeping or just rising, devastating the ancient city internationally known for its date trees and the 2,000-year-old citadel. According to recent  

estimates, at least 70 percent of the city’s buildings collapsed. 

The widespread devastation is largely due to the construction of the buildings, nearly all made of mud-brick and not seismically reinforced. 

Many of the deaths occurred when people were either crushed by falling debris or smothered by crumbling brick and mud. It is deep winter in Bam and others lost their lives when immediate rescue efforts were hampered by the extreme cold.  

The Persian Center, 2029 Durant St., is now collecting new medical supplies and looking for volunteers. For drop-off times for medical gear, call 848-0264. 

For information about donating money, blood or other supplies, see the website of the National Iranian American Council: www.niacouncil.org/iranquake.asp.

Berkeley Officialdom Ignores an Impending Danger

Friday January 02, 2004

If someone were to, say, set up a catapult in the Berkeley Hills and lob a rock down on the streets of the city every few months, the police in Berkeley would do their best to arrest that person before someone was killed. Yet, a situation with a similar risk to life and property exists on one of our streets, and the city has been repeatedly notified of it but will do nothing about it at all (or next to nothing, but I'll get to that.) There is an old, diseased elm tree standing on Tacoma Avenue near the corner of Colusa. The tree is falling down in sections. Every few months it drops a branch. Some of the branches fall from a height of perhaps 50 feet. It happened a year ago, the branch only hit asphalt, and the city came out and cleared the branch out of the street. Luckily, nobody was injured. Then on Oct. 25, it happened again. This time the branch crushed the hood and fenders of an automobile (as it happens, my automobile.) The force was so great that when the hood was pushed down upon the engine block by the impact of the branch, a bolt punched right through the hood. The damage cost more than $1,800 to repair. If the branch had hit a person instead of an inanimate object, that person would have been grievously injured or killed. 

This happened just before Halloween and I was concerned that more branches would fall from the tree and hurt a child out trick-or-treating. I wrote to the Parks and Waterfront. I received no reply. I then wrote to the mayor, the city manager, and my City Councilperson. Again, there was no reply. I wrote again, and was told, on Nov. 3, that something would be done about it. And, in fact, something was done about it. Someone from the City of Berkeley came out, inspected the tree, pulled out a brush and can of paint and painted a bright red spot on it. And, a month and a half later, there the tree stands, all decorated for the holidays with its bright red spot. I may be slow, but I fail to see how painting a bright red spot on a dangerous tree (and we have obtained the opinion of an arborist that the tree is dangerous) lessens the danger, but then, I am not a professional on such matters. I do know that on Thanksgiving Day, during a high wind, another branch fell off the tree., and still another branch has fallen in the last couple of weeks. Luckily, no one was standing under it.  

That tree, by the way, stands two houses up the street from the Thousand Oaks School. Every day children and their parents park under it and walk down the street to the school, no doubt stopping to admire how wonderful the tree looks with its bright red spot. If we are very lucky, no child, or adult for that matter, will be killed by a falling branch. Yet, the government of Berkeley appears unconcerned: After all, at some point all the branches will have fallen, and maybe nobody will be injured. Perhaps they will do something about the tree after they have increased the parcel tax, or have hired a few more officious and rude bureaucrats to bumble around in the Planning Department making sure that nobody who changes a business address can do so without investing three hours of their time filling out countless forms asking how much alcohol a law office plans to serve and the like. The provision of services other cities would consider to be basic—such as making sure that children can get to school without danger of having their skulls crushed—seems too mundane for the well-paid employees of the City of Berkeley to deal with. 

Another example of the nobody cares attitude in the city is the block of Bancroft Way just west of Shattuck Avenue. This block is downtown and receives a lot of foot traffic. It also is maybe three blocks from City Hall. Police patrol there all the time. Berkeley High kids pass by on their way to school. Library employees use the entrance to gain access to their work. Sometime in September or October a miscreant decided to break one or more windows of cars parked on that block. Scads of pieces of broken glass covered the sidewalk. Those broken glass fragments were still there at the end of November, when I took off for a couple of weeks and left town. On coming back to town I wondered aloud whether my return would still see those glass fragments all over that sidewalk. I was not disappointed. The sidewalk is still covered with glass. Unless I am mistaken, the glass from the car windows has been joined by new glass from broken bottles. It seems that if the city allows glass to accumulate on its sidewalks, with no efforts to clean it, permission is tacitly given to others to smash glass onto the sidewalks. I'm sure this impresses Berkeley visitors to the area, those who, for instance come in to attend movies or plays downtown, or parents who are visiting their students. Again, perhaps this is too lowly a job to force on our highly efficient and well-paid city bureaucrats. 

But lately it occurs to me that I may be wrong. There may be a purpose here. The city may be allowing the broken glass to accumulate in an effort to keep homeless people from sleeping on the sidewalks, although that would seem to be politically highly incorrect. 

Paul Glusman is a Berkeley attorney.

Berkeley Developer Loses Asbestos Judgment Appeal

Friday January 02, 2004

Though a state Administrative Law Judge upheld the finding that a well-known Berkeley construction company “willfully” exposed both workers and the public to asbestos during a Hayward building demolition last year, a lawyer for the company is hailing the decision as a partial victory. 

The lawyer for Kimes Morris Construction—jointly owned by Berkeley builders Andrew Kimes and James Morris—says that the Cal-OSHA judge’s ruling actually favors the builders in some respects because he specifically found no evidence of an “intentional” violation. 

Fred Walter of the occupational health and safety law experts Walter Law Firm of Healdsburg, said that “while the ruling is against the employer [Kimes Morris], actually it is a vindication of the argument the employer [Kimes Morris] was making all along.” 

Cal-OSHA Associate Industrial Hygienist Garrett Brown, who brought the original charges against the firm, greeted Walter’s assertion of victory with a succinct “Ha!” The Oakland-based inspector added, “I don’t see how he [the Kimes Morris attorney] could say that. The only issue under contention was whether the classification of “willful” would be sustained or not, and that’s what the judge sustained. It goes on their record as a willful violation. Their [Kimes Morris’] contention was that it wasn’t a willful violation. They conceded they had violated the law, but they said it was not done willfully. [Cal-OSHA] felt otherwise, and on the basis of the three day hearing, so did the Administrative Law Judge.” 

The hearing was held in Oakland in early October. 

In a ruling issued last week, Judge Manuel M. Melgoza fined Kimes Morris $10,000 for the single charge remaining before him. Cal-OSHA inspectors had originally cited the company for 17 violations stemming from the Hayward demolition project, assessing fines of nearly $36,000. Kimes Morris appealed all of the citations to Cal-OSHA’s Appeals Board, later dropping all but the single “willful” citation appeal after negotiations with Cal-OSHA. 

The judge’s ruling, along with some adjustments to the charges by Cal-OSHA, reduced Kimes Morris’ total fine to $20,800. 

The citations and the hearing stemmed from a December, 2001-January, 2002 incident during Kimes Morris Company’s renovations of a Hayward commercial building co-owned by the company. After Kimes Morris employees were discovered dumping unprotected asbestos waste into an open bin behind the building, Cal-OSHA temporarily suspended the demolition. 

Among the 17 citations later listed against Kimes Morris were the fact that cancer-causing asbestos fibers were being loosed into the air and workers were handling the material without proper protection. Many of the workers involved were Latino immigrant laborers. 

In its defense, Kimes Morris said they were unaware that asbestos was present on the site and unfamiliar with the regulations governing asbestos removal. Kimes Morris officials say that they are primarily constructors of buildings, and have been involved in only one other major demolition project—the Artech Building in Berkeley. That project also involved asbestos removal, but the removal was subcontracted out to another company by Kimes Morris. 

To show what he said indicated the company’s moral—if not legal—lack of blame, Kimes Morris’ attorney Walter noted a sentence near the end of Judge Melgoza’s decision, which read: “The record does not warrant a finding that [Kimes Morris] intentionally exposed employees to a known asbestos hazard, but that is not required to prove the willful classification.” 

“Given the nature of the allegations made by Garrett Brown and other people at Cal-OSHA in Oakland,” Walter said, “I thought that this paragraph was especially valuable, even though we lost the case. The judge said that there is no evidence of any intent to expose employees to asbestos with some sort of cruel and callous disregard of their safety. That’s not necessary to prove OSHA’s definition of willful.” 

While Walter contended that willful ought to mean intentional in all instances, he added that “it’s coming to mean something different when you deal with state agencies that write their own definitions.” 

But Cal-OSHA inspector Brown said the judge’s rejection of the Kimes Morris appeal is all that matters. He notes that the Hayward asbestos citations were the fourth time Cal-OSHA has been called in to inspect Kimes Morris building projects in the past three years. The first three inspections resulted in “serious” citations, which he described as violations of safety procedures that have the “substantial possibility of serious injury or death.” 

Besides the $20,000 fine, Brown said, there might be other consequences for the company. “It might have some affect on their Workers Compensation insurance premiums if their workers comp carrier learns that they were cited by Cal-OSHA for willfully violating the law. It might make it more difficult for them to win bids if they have a record.” 

Brown added that someone might take note of the number of citations against a single company in a short a period of time. “That’s unusual,” he said. “It doesn’t happen very often.”

Don’t Blame City For State’s Woes

By Rob Wrenn Special to the Planet
Friday January 02, 2004

As our new governor makes the state’s fiscal crisis worse by cutting the vehicle license fee, and as he reneges on promises not to cut education, don’t blame me or my fellow Berkeleyans.  

Berkeley residents can fairly say that they had nothing to do with bringing about the current sorry state of affairs. Or at least they had less to do with it than residents of any other city in the state. 

The shopping mall-based voter revolt in California that removed a recently re-elected governor and replaced him with an oversized actor with a long history of groping women found few recruits here in Berkeley. 

In case you don’t already know it, be advised that people in Berkeley are quite different from people in most of the rest of this state when it comes to politics. If you need proof for this, you need look no further than the results of the recent recall election. (See Table 1, right.) 

Berkeley is the only city in the state where Arnold Schwarzenegger came in third, losing not only to Cruz Bustamante, the self-appointed Democratic replacement candidate for now-former Gov. Gray Davis, but also to Green Party candidate Peter Camejo.  

Almost 89 percent of Berkeley’s voters voted against recalling Gray Davis, the highest percentage of no votes in the whole state. Left-of-center strongholds like San Francisco and Santa Cruz also rejected the recall by large margins, but nobody wanted to keep Davis in office more than Berkeley’s voters. 

Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante managed to get only 31.5 percent vote statewide, but 74 percent voted for him in Berkeley, his best showing in the state. 

Davis did remarkably well in the recall in Berkeley in light of his weaker performance in the November 2002 general election. In the 2002 election, Davis got 65.8 percent in Berkeley to 25.8 percent for Peter Camejo and 7.0 percent for Republican candidate Bill Simon.  

In recent elections, Green Party candidates have done relatively well in elections where a segment of progressive voters have concluded that they could safely vote for a Green over a more moderate or conservative Democrat without throwing the election to a Republican. (See Table 2, right.) 

Davis had a solid lead over Simon in the polls leading up to the 2002 election, while polls prior to the recall showed the recall and Schwarzenegger ahead. 

For an another example of strategic voting by left-leaning Berkeley voters, consider the 2000 U.S. Senate election. Conservative Democrat Diane Feinstein, who recently helped pass Republican Medicare privatization legislation, lost a considerable number of votes to Green candidate Medea Benjamin when she ran for re-election in November 2000. Her GOP opponent Tom Campbell was behind in the polls and lost by a big margin. 

It’s not surprising that Republican candidates for state and national office consistently run behind Green candidates in Berkeley. Only 6.9 percent of Berkeley’s voters are registered Republicans, while 7.1 percent are registered Greens. Sixty-three percent are registered Democrats.  

In Berkeley, Republicans are as much a “third party” as Greens. Democrats outnumber Greens and Republicans combined by more than 4 to 1. 

The recall lost and Bustamante won by landslide margins in every precinct in Berkeley. In fact to call the results a landslide would be an understatement. The closest thing to good news for Republicans came from precinct 320, located above Claremont Avenue, where a little more than 20 percent voted for the recall and for Schwarzenegger. 

While Bustamante beat Schwarzenegger by better than 8-1 citywide, a mega-landslide, he won by a more ordinary 3-1 landslide in precinct 320. The area above Claremont has the highest average income in the city. 

The only other precinct where the recall garnered even 20 percent support was in one student precinct south of the UC campus where many fraternities and sororities are located. 

Looking at the results of the October election, it’s possible to identify the most progressive, anti-Republican area of the city.  

In the precincts west of Shattuck Avenue and east of Sacramento Street, between Bancroft Way and Ashby Avenue, Schwarzenegger got 5 percent or less of the votes cast. Green Party candidate Peter Camejo did well in areas with the highest percentages of tenants both south of campus and downtown, where he got 10-14 percent. 

The recall lost in all the state’s big cities except San Diego. It passed because of strong support in the San Joaquin Valley and other agricultural areas, and in the newer sprawl suburbs. In Alameda County, the recall failed everywhere but in the East County communities of Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin, the part of the county with the highest proportion of new housing development.  

In the City of Los Angeles, the recall lost by a solid margin, but outlying and more suburban areas of Los Angeles County voted solidly for the recall. 

Sutter County, northeast of Sacramento, was where the recall was most popular. 77 percent voted yes. Yuba City, the biggest community in Sutter County, has the dubious distinction have having been rated the worst place to live in the United States by Rand McNally. 

If a researcher were to take a closer look at where Schwarzenegger and the recall did well, I bet he or she would find a correlation with the following: 

• Areas with limited public transit and high car dependency. 

• Areas where Wal Mart accounts for a higher percentage of local retail sales. 

• Areas with lots of newer “dumb growth,” sprawl single-family housing developments. 

• Areas where a high percentage of restaurants are chain restaurants.

BART Changes

Friday January 02, 2004

Transbay BART commuters still smarting over the new 10 percent fare hikes can take solace at some good news: Starting next month, timed transfers return to the 12th Street/Oakland and MacArthur stations. 

Last year, BART’s $1.5 billion extension to San Francisco International Airport and parts of San Mateo County came at an unexpected price to Berkeley riders: cancellation of the timed transfers to the Pittsburg/Bay Point line, which had cut transbay travel time by seven to 15 minutes. 

Now as BART reshuffles its ailing airport service, it’s restoring the transfers in a move estimated to save the agency $2 million, said spokesperson Mike Healy. 

“It’ll be an enhancement for Berkeley,” he said. “A lot of people complained about the current schedule.”  

Beginning Feb. 9, all Pittsburg/Bay Point trains will travel directly to SFO. Rush hour Berkeley trains will head to Millbrae and then to the airport. With direct service to SFO cut on the Dublin/Pleasanton line, those trains will turn around at Daly City. BART also axed a seldom-used shuttle linking Millbrae to SFO. 

The new schedule is aimed to support SamTrans, which must pay BART’s estimated $15- $18 million operating budget deficit on its San Mateo service. 

When SFO service began in January, BART picked the Dublin/Pleasanton line to give direct service to SFO, projecting that it would serve the bulk of airport customers—simultaneously throwing off timed transfers between the Richmond and Pittsburg/Bay Point lines. 

Healy said subsequent rider surveys indicate that riders on the Richmond and Pittsburg/Bay Point lines commute to SFO most frequently, triggering the service change. 

Before last year’s schedule change Berkeley riders could take any Fremont train south and transfer at MacArthur, where a San Francisco train would be waiting on the platform. In San Francisco, Berkeley passengers could board Pittsburg/Bay Point trains and transfer to a waiting Richmond-bound train at the 12th Street/Oakland station. 

Healy said that despite the service reductions implemented in 2003, ridership on the Richmond line has held steady. 

—Matthew Artz

Cable Joins Ranks of Oakland Shooting Victims

Friday January 02, 2004

At exactly midnight on Christmas Eve, somebody took out the main cable box on our street with small arms fire, I think, perhaps as an East Oakland-type of commentary on the continually descending quality of Comcast’s programming. We tend to be blunt and plain-spoken out this way. 

Anyway, I’m sure the cable went out at exactly midnight, whatever the cause. They sent three repair trucks out 10 hours later, searching the utility poles for evidence of damage, and while two of them were up there on the booms, the third one dropped by the house and asked if we might want to upgrade our service to digital. I declined. I’ll wait ‘til they include the radar attachment that detects incoming fire. 

I am also sure that the cable blackout was immediately preceded by five rounds, fired in rapid succession. 9 millimeter, maybe? I forgot to ask the neighborhood children, who are becoming expert in detecting caliber and model. Gunshots are not as common in our part of the world as they are in, say, the Sunni Triangle, but we get our share. Mostly, by way of response, we apply the footstep principle. If you hear gunshots, you must stand very still and quiet and listen for footsteps running on the pavement outside. If you hear no rapid footsteps, you can let out your breath and go about your business, and surmise that this was only someone shooting at the cable box, or Mars retreating, or one of the raccoons rummaging through a stray bin of garbage. If you hear footsteps, running, then you must quickly apply the Doppler Effect (remember when you told your high school science teacher that you’d only learn this stuff if it could someday save your life; well, wise-ass, now’s your chance). Are the footsteps coming toward your house, or retreating? If they are retreating, continue to stand still and listen for further developments. If they are coming towards your house, find cover. Chances are, more excitement will soon follow. 

It is interesting, sometimes, to hear those of my friends who live in other parts of the world express wonderment at why we in these beleaguered blocks do not cooperate with the police when we hear such things as gunshots in the street outside. The truth is, we have a high regard for our police forces, and know that they are busy elsewhere, with more important things. Right now, law enforcement officers—in the persons of our state Highway Patrol—are whizzing up and down International Boulevard, chasing down suspected DUI’s. Do not get me wrong. Driving under the influence is a serious and deadly problem throughout our neighborhoods, all of them, and one wonders why there is no great clamor to bring this sort of impacted, rolling convoy-type of enforcement to a street near you. Or perhaps to 66th Avenue just after a Raider game where, one would guess, they could wrack up citations en masse. But that’s another story for another day. 

Meanwhile, I have it on good authority (neighborhood talk up at the parking lot of the Quarter Pound) that those who are driving under the influence of liquor and other intoxicating substances have taken to traveling on parallel streets a block off of International to avoid the police blockades, on, say, Holly, where the open air drug dealers do their trade. From what they tell me, police are only sporadically encountered there. 

The Highway Patrol street patrols were supposed to have ended at midnight on New Year’s Eve, rendered into pumpkin-and-mice like Cinderella’s coach-and-four, the state grant to fund them having flickered, wavered, and gone out. We were told—remember that one?—that the Highway Patrol was supposed to free up the Oakland police so the police could do something—the actual something was never actually enumerated in detail—to reduce our rate of murder. How did they do? Three days before the turn of the year, we were holding at 111, only two less than last year’s 113. That may seem a minor drop to you, but numbers, as Einstein once told us, are all relative, and it’s most certainly a major accomplishment for the two guys this year who missed the cut. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times reports that a shakeup by L.A.’s new police chief has led to a 23 percent reduction in that city’s murder rate. Didn’t Oakland get a new police chief, too, one time? 

Meredith May of the San Francisco Chronicle gives a more revealing number. She reports that Oakland has only 10 homicide investigators to handle more than 100 murders. Last year, on the other hand, the figure was 25 investigators for 48 homicides in San Diego, 16 investigators for 68 murders in San Francisco, 10 investigators for 49 homicides in Sacramento, and 14 investigators for 68 murders in San Jose. “My guys handle two to three times more cases than any homicide team in California,” May quoted Oakland homicide chief Lt. Jim Emery. It was not clear whether it was a boast or a complaint. 

In response to the embarrassment over last year’s murders, Mayor Jerry Brown floated a double bond vote to hire 100 more police. The financing part of the bond lost, partly because Brown never articulated what, exactly, those police might be assigned to do. Instead of 100 police, we might have profited more by hiring say, 10 more homicide guys. 

Oh, and maybe a couple of patrolmen to guard the utility pole that holds our cable box. I’d rather not miss another segment of The Daily Show, if I can help it.

What’s in a Name? A Raisin Perhaps?

By ZAC UNGER Special to the Planet
Friday January 02, 2004

So we’ve got a second baby waiting in the wings, just paddling around in that ever more cramped fetal health spa, waiting for his call-up to the big leagues. In fact, by the time you read this, he may already be here, or, if it turns out to be a busy decade for Berkeley-related news, he may already be a teenager. In these waning days of relative calm the second most important conversation around our house (after “Do you think we’ll go absolutely bat-poop insane raising two babies under a year old in a crappy student apartment?”) is about what we ought to name the new addition. 

The root of the problem is the desire for originality. We could just name him John and be done with it but we cling to the fantasy that a name defines a personality. And since my main reason for having a kid is home-growing someone to amuse me, I’ve got to start him off with an interesting name, if only for my own sake. Of course, every one of us has marginally true stories about tragically named people we’ve met—Flamingo, Truckstop, Latrinia—so extreme originality can certainly backfire. 

In finding the fine balance, those of us who have babies to name run up against the problem of the “Collective Cool,” that unfathomable force that makes us each believe that our own taste is unique and edgy. The Cool exists everywhere, from food to fashion to travel. I happen to actually be on the leading edge of The Cool, while you only think you are. For example I discovered distressed wood while you were still cooing over blond Nordic armoires and stainless steel end tables. And brightly colored Guatemalan peasant clothing? I was ahead of you on that one pal, way ahead. The problem is that when everyone else catches up, it doesn’t matter who was there first. The inevitable end result is a bunch of people standing around the hors d’oeuvres table wearing Rigoberta Menchu’s sweatpants and feeling stupid.  

Nowhere does The Cool exist more oppressively than with respect to baby names. While you can simply burn a pair of pants, a name is something you’re stuck with, and the consequences can be devastating. I’m sure my parents thought they were being hip and countercultural when they named me Zac, but it turned out there were three of us in my preschool class. Similarly, 10 years ago my wife had the fantastic suggestion to name her cousin’s boy Max. Nowadays you can’t throw a cinderblock into a sandbox without hitting half a dozen of the little guys. 

This presents a Catch-22: any name that I favor is rendered unusable by the simple fact that I favor it. Zeke appeals quite a bit, therefore it’s out. Same with Milo but I’m sure everybody else loved the Phantom Tollbooth every bit as much as I did. Finn is a nice one, but I know a couple of dogs so named, and there is no better harbinger of up-and-coming baby names than that. Some friends have tried to time-warp The Cool by choosing retro names like Bea and Hersch. It’s a decent strategy, but sometimes an old Jewish man’s name is just exactly that. “Hi, this is my son Saul. He can’t come to playgroup because he has bunions.” Perhaps the only solution is to go with names that you actively dislike; look for a wave of Adolfs and Brunhildas to hit the preschools in coming years.  

The Social Security Department maintains a website that tracks the thousand most popular names by year. My friend Alex turned me on to the site after discovering that due to various feminine spellings of his name—Alix, Alexx, Alecks—his name is now primarily for girls and he is fast becoming the Leslie of the 21st century. Manly-man that he is, he’s changing his name for sure and is at the moment deciding between Lance, Rod, and Peter. Tracking names on the website has become something of an obsession of my mine lately. True, Zeke is still only the 351st most popular, but it’s up from 655 a decade ago, and I don’t like that trend. Also, I don’t believe there is a uniform national spread here; it doesn’t matter if Milo is only at 819 if everybody in Berkeley has named their kid that. I don’t want to move to the Rust Belt just so my boy can have an original name, but I’ll do it if I have to. 

Perhaps the worst advice is “just wait until he pops out and see what name fits him.” If everybody did that, most babies would be named either Winston Churchill or Raisin. Actually, now that I think about it….

City Merchants Tally Holiday Sales

Friday January 02, 2004

The Christmas shopping season fortunes of Berkeley’s independent merchants proved as varied as the inventories of the shops and stands that line city boulevards, according to interviews with shopkeepers. 

Though merchants weren’t offering concrete numbers, it appeared that booksellers and high-end boutiques had banner years, while street vendor sales were literally washed away. 

“This might have been our best Christmas ever,” said Shakespeare & Co. co-owner Harvey Segal, surpassing similarly positive reviews from other book sellers on Telegraph and Solano Avenues. 

Though most Berkeley retailers reported a December sales spike, David Fogarty of the city’s Office of Economic Development said Christmas isn’t as pivotal for Berkeley merchants. 

“We don’t have the kind of stores (toy stores and department stores) that generate big holiday business,” he said. “At a lot of the important stores in Berkeley purchasing is more equally dispersed throughout the year.” 

Nationally, December retail sales rose four percent in the days leading up to Christmas—the biggest jump since 1999—said International Council of Shopping Centers spokesperson Stacey Szluka. 

Leading the charge were apparel and electronics sales, she said—sad news for Berkeley, which saw nearly all of its electronic stores fold or take off to Emeryville in the mid-1990s. 

Camera stores—still plentiful in the city—reported robust sales. “We did great,” said Mark Bolt of Sarber’s Cameras of Solano Avenue, adding that many shoppers were in the market for digital cameras and didn’t want to trust their purchases to chain stores that employ camera novices. 

Most clothing merchants also reported stronger sales than last Christmas, though still far below boom year totals of the late 1990s. 

Official December sales figures won’t be available for a couple of months, Fogarty said, but recent city statistics show that, like the rest of Alameda County, Berkeley businesses have suffered through the regional recession. 

Twelve-month figures ending this August show Berkeley sales down 4.2 percent—with apparel sales falling 7.4 percent, recreational products like compact discs, cameras and sporting goods declining 13 percent and miscellaneous retail, mainly books, off 5.6 percent. During the same period, sales in Emeryville dropped 3.3 percent. 

Emeryville—Berkeley’s chain store foil—upped the ante this year with the opening of Bay Street, an upscale mall designed to compete against shops on Berkeley’s Fourth Street. 

Christmas sales at Bay Street weren’t available, but most Fourth Street merchants interviewed said the holidays gave them little relief from a tough year. 

“This has been the worst Christmas in my four years here,” said Cameron Von Ehrenkrook, an employee of April Cornell. She said mid-range boutiques like hers had struggled this year, but the street’s higher end shops like Molly B were doing better. 

That mirrored a nationwide trend, said Szluka. High-end chains like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and The Sharper Image posted strong seasonal sales, while discounters struggled. 

Wal-Mart announced last week that same store sales growth through Dec. 24 was tracking around three percent—towards the low end of their forecasts. 

For Telegraph Avenue street vendors, the Grinch arrived wearing rain clouds. “Christmas is always a crapshoot. This is two years in a row now where the weather was shit,” said Phil Rowntree, a craftsman and avenue veteran who spent several weekends dodging downpours under a plastic sheath. 

Street vendors said their problems were more than weather related. “This is my season,” said Kymahni as she knitted a hat at her stand. Yet, she said, this year shoppers were buying her cheapest hats and her average weekend earnings has dwindled from $300 in 2000 to $100 this year. “It’s almost gotten to the point where I wonder if it’s worth coming out here anymore.” 

Summertime with its flock of tourists is usually the best season for street vendors, but Rowntree said sales have been down 30- 40 percent since the Sept. 11th attacks, and the ranks of sidewalk stands has been in decline. “You can get a vendor’s license tomorrow morning if you wanted,” he said. “There used to be waiting lists out here.”

Open Space Advocate Honored With a Park

By JOHN GELUARDI Special to the Planet
Friday January 02, 2004

During the dedication of the Lucretia Edwards Shoreline Park in Richmond last October, 300 guests listened as a succession of politicians praised the park’s 87-year-old namesake for her 50 years of relentless advocacy for open space.  

Edwards, who was seated in a specially garlanded chair, said the ceremony was “too much fuss,” but she listened gracefully to a succession of laudatory comments laden with terms like “fighter,” “champion” and “visionary.”  

The new park is located in Richmond on the former site of a WWII Shipyard. Like Edwards, the beautifully landscaped, two-acre park is small, enchanting and offers long, expansive views.  

Edwards and her late husband Tom moved to the seaside borough of Point Richmond, just after World War II. At that time, public access to the city’s 32 miles of shoreline was limited to a paltry 65 feet. The rest was mostly owned by companies such as the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards, Union Pacific Rail Road and Standard Oil, now ChevronTexaco. 

Over the years, Edwards, who is also a noted local historian and human rights activist, has successfully committed her tenacious resolve and sprite-like charm to creating public access to the Richmond shoreline. Thanks to Edwards and her “lady friends” in the Contra Costa Shoreline Parks Committee there are now 15 miles of public shoreline, 20 miles of Bay Trail and hundreds of acres of parkland, including 295-acre Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline Park, which was dedicated in 1977.  

“Her tireless efforts to make a difference are an inspiration to all of us,” said Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioa. “She showed us that advocacy backed by careful thought is the most powerful kind of advocacy.” 

Several weeks after the dedication, Edwards looked out over the bay from the living room in her modest, two-story redwood cottage where she and Tom raised their three children, and remembered a time when politicians had a different opinion of her. 

“I wasn’t very well liked. In fact they would have rather seen me dead,” she said with a sprightly smile. “After the war, Richmond was still a company town and in those days and everyone was so grateful for their jobs, they simply did not go against the company.” 

Edwards, cheerful and fey, sat in a chair at the end of a window seat below which there was a low bookshelf. Tom Edwards was a docking pilot for Standard Oil and spent much of his career navigating large tankers through the bay waters below their hillside home. Seasoned, hardbound California history books and nautical manuals lean into one another in the window seat bookshelf. 

Edwards said her upbringing made it difficult to get involved in the wrangling of political activism. “I was brought up in the Quaker tradition and was expected to be polite, ladylike and not to be a nuisance to anybody,” she said. “But I soon learned what great fun it is to antagonize people.” 

Edwards had enjoyed the seaside since her family vacationed on the New Jersey shore when she was a child. When she first moved to Point Richmond, she was appalled to learn how little of the shore was open to the public. She joined a local civic group. However, that group was distracted with other issues and a bit too “languid,” so Edwards splintered off with several other women and formed the Contra Costa Shoreline Parks Committee. 

The committee soon began an effective campaign to open Richmond’s shoreline to the public. And they used the most effective weapon they had; charm. 

“We very much believed in the divide-and-conquer theory,” she said. “We got dressed up in our flowery hats and invited individual politicians and officials to picnics with lots of cheap champagne. Once they were comfortable, we would begin the process of convincing them of the value of public access and we didn’t relent until we got some kind of concession from them.” 

Edwards and her associates also spent endless hours at city, county and company meetings where they employed similar techniques. “We were always so cute and feminine but really we were concealing knives to get those guys.” 

Edwards said she is a little embarrassed of the enchant-then-pressure method, “but only a little.” 

As an example of Edwards’ commitment to opening the shoreline, residents point to a now famous bit of Point Richmond lore. Nichol Knob, the highest hilltop in Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline Park, was for sale in the 1960s and a developer planned to use the site to build high-rise apartment buildings. Edwards was so distraught at the thought of the property being developed, she and her husband—who were not wealthy people—purchased the property and maintained it until it could later be sold to East Bay Regional Park District.  

Edwards has an impressive list of civic accomplishments including helping to save the East Brother Light Station from demolition, establishing the Home Health Hospice and putting Point Richmond on the National Registry of Historic Places. She founded the Friends of Richmond, an environmental watchdog group and served on the Marina Bay Citizens Advisory Committee, which ensured public access to the grounds of the former Kaiser Shipyards. More recently she served on the task force that developed plans for the rescue of Point Molate Navel Station.  

Edwards is not as active in local politics as she once was, but said she is proud when she sees the public using Richmond’s shoreline parks and said the hard work and long wait was worth it. “When you take on projects like these, you have to aspire to longevity because it takes a long time for them to come to fruition,” she said.

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!”



Activist Gerda Miller Dies

By Randy Silverman Special to the Planet
Friday January 02, 2004

Gerda Miller, longtime Berkeley Gray Panthers leader and activist for recognition of decent housing, healthcare, and education as basic human rights, died at home on Dec. 18. 

Born in 1913 to a middle-class Jewish family in Berlin, Gerda turned to political activity as a young woman, demonstrating against the Nazis. She and her sister fled Germany during Hitler’s rise to power and never saw their parents again. 

Gerda made her way to Palestine where she started a pickle-canning kibbutz. With the outbreak of the Second World War, she was drafted into the British military and, as a Royal Air Force sergeant, ran a gas supply station on the Sinai Peninsula. 

After a brief marriage to a British soldier, she lived in England until the end of the war. She then moved to New York, where she studied at night to obtain a master’s degree in education from Hunter College. 

Gerda became founding director of the nursery school program at New York’s Congregation Rodeph Sholom. Under her leadership, the program expanded into the Rodeph Sholom Day School covering grades K-8.  

She married Morris Miller in the 1950s. The couple had no children. 

Gerda retired from teaching in 1975. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband moved to Berkeley where Gerda joined the newly founded local chapter of the Gray Panthers. 

Showing considerable organizational skill, she helped to build the Berkeley Gray Panthers into a formidable group of activists who remain a respected force for social and economic justice in the East Bay. 

Irv Rautenberg, who served alongside Gerda as Gray Panthers co-convener, recalled, “Gerda was a real fountain of strength for progressives in Berkeley. The way things are going in this country, we need her now, and we’ll miss her.” 

Gerda always combated the misperception that only seniors could join the Gray Panthers. She believed fully in its mission of bringing age and youth together in pursuit of a better society. Appropriately, Gerda’s large circle of friends included not just members of her own generation, but many who were young enough to be her children and grandchildren. 

Her commitment to tenants’ rights and personal experience fighting eviction from her North Berkeley apartment led her to become a candidate for the Berkeley Rent Board in 1984. She was the top vote getter. Over the years, Gerda remained a voice for effective rent control. She always made sure the pro-tenant forces had plenty of volunteers to help with campaign mailings and to lobby legislators. 

Gerda and the Gray Panthers pushed for affordable housing on the Clark Kerr campus; as a result of these efforts, Redwood Gardens was created. She also promoted intergenerational housing. For the last decade, Gerda played a substantial role in efforts to establish a Canadian-style single payer health care system for all Americans. 

Gerda moved out of Berkeley four years ago, after a broken hip and stroke forced her to leave her upstairs apartment. From her new home in an Oakland senior facility, she continued her participation in community life until just a few months before her death. 

One of Gerda’s closest friends, former City Councilmember Carla Woodworth, observed, “Gerda was a natural-born organizer who made politics fun. She could pack a bus to Sacramento with 24 hours’ notice. She was just an extraordinary human being.”

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.