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Spy-cam Spied at Berkeley's Cafe Med;
Hotbed of Radicalism Shocked, Shocked;
J.Edgar Hoover Finally Scores

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday April 13, 2011 - 11:57:00 AM
Craig Becker readies for leap of faith. Big Brother--tiny spy-cam--can be seen atop audio speaker.
Craig Becker readies for leap of faith. Big Brother--tiny spy-cam--can be seen atop audio speaker.

What a concept. Berkeley's famous Cafe Mediterraneum on-line in videos filmed by the founder of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover.

In a "revoltin development" the Med’s 50 year ban on tourist photography and ESPECIALLY an alphabet soup of spying agencies like F.B.I., C.I.A., C.B.S., N.B.C., O.N.I.--has sputtered.  

Right on. Time marches on and yesterday's secret crimes of anti-ism give way to u-tube self-videos and voyeurism. 

Med regulars are still trying to grock the failed December free speech boycott of the Med over charges later proved untrue. 

Now the spy cam. 

George Orwell's "Big Brother," an all-seeing camera, following us like our cell phones. "Where are you? What are you doing?" 

Call it big brother; call it the eyeball on high, call it Orwell. 

Installers of the eye, Craig Becker, 59, the Med's owner and two university students with a hot business model put up the petite eyeball more than two weeks ago. 

The students plan to install the geeky eyeballs in other Berkeley cafes and businesses so that students can spy on their friends. 

But--FLASH: Big Brother is now blooie, victim of either chronic neck droop, a staff intervention, or customer sabotage. 

Sabotaged, Blooie, blotto, or just plain broke. It now spends its once active filming life mis-aimed at the ceiling with what Berkeley's Poet Laureate, Julia Vinograd calls a "celestial stare." 

Smiling and licking his lips with satisfaction, Becker relishes the notion that one of his employees crawled the perilous crawl space above the entrance and tilted the eye up, up, and away from the Med's first floor tables. 

Med staffers had previously complained about the spy-cam to Becker. 

Another Med staffer believes that Big Brother's eye shot upwards from natural causes (boredom?)--probably a swivel disorder, according to the staffer. 

Anyone who witnessed the action-packed thriller that was the eye-ball installation would agree with the staffer that: "no way an employee is going up there; it's too dangerous." 

Two student entrepreneurs, with Becker's help, installed the curious cam on an audio speaker perched on a seemingly inaccessible ledge 10 feet above the first floor of the cafe. Becker, mountain goat in a previous life, handily gained a toe-hold on a three inch ledge while grasping a nearby slippery furnace to reach the speaker. 

The students eye-balled the 10 foot fall awaiting them if they failed, where Becker had succeeded. They stalled and fidgeted before risking their lives for their business model. 

The students required much coaxing and cajoling before each made his leap-of-faith business sacrifice. This reporter watched in horror as the students hesitated at the edge of a ledge for what seemed forever as the whole scene turned into a suicide watch. 

Whether Brother is doomed to eyeball the ceiling forever or meets an even worse fate remains to be seen, although not by Brother's eye. 

Becker went back to the ledge Monday--this time, solo--to reposition the eye so it can resume its spying. 

Even when up and running, there was nothing big about Brother's lo-def, fuzzy images and limited video coverage of the room. 

But now Big Brother may be really kaput. The Website for this brainstorm is not posting the eye's accounts on-line, as advertised. 

Brother may be filming, he just isn't getting broadcasted (posted) and what fun is that? 

But if Brother’s audio is on, he won't miss the 747 jet roar of the carrot juicer, which is grinding the nerves of Medheads while muddling its mulching. 

On the rare dull day at the Med, conversation centers on planning pre-emptive attacks on the A-hole juicer. Nail in a carrot was a recent suggestion, but it was ruled out as too dangerous to staff. 

With his usual mischievous grin, Becker counters that the juicer makes more sense than the conversations it drowns out. Medheads burn. 

Failed boycotts, a robbery or two, a disruptive customer or two, incidents outside the cafe, the A-hole carrot juicer. Becker has survived a recent series of such incidents to emerge as the heir apparent to Moe Moskowitz, the most colorful Teley businessman who once lived (died 1997). 

Now if only a "miracle of the Med eyeball" would restore the eye to service, we could watch "the Medheads," Berkeley's local sitcom, on-line. 



Ted Friedman, a Medhead since '72, has "nailed” a few carrot juicer conspiracies of his own.