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The run down old cafeteria at West Campus. City and School District staff have been working on a plan to relocate City Council and BUSD Board meetings to this structure, at a cost of $2.1 million.
Steven Finacom
The run down old cafeteria at West Campus. City and School District staff have been working on a plan to relocate City Council and BUSD Board meetings to this structure, at a cost of $2.1 million.


Updated: Second Earthquake Strikes Berkeley Tonight: 3.8

By Bay City News Service
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 10:55:00 PM

The U.S. Geological Survey has downgraded tonight's earthquake from its original preliminary magnitude of 4.2, to 3.9 a short time later, and now experts report it was a 3.8-magnitude tremor. 

The quake struck at 8:16 p.m. and was centered about one mile east of Berkeley with a depth of 6 miles, the USGS said. 

BART officials said riders can expect 15-minute delays system-wide tonight. 

The transit agency stopped all trains when the quake occurred and began track inspection. No injuries or damage was reported, according to BART spokesman Jim Allison. 

The temblor created a large jolt in San Francisco, including the Civic Center area, Nob Hill, Richmond District, and Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, and was felt throughout the region including Danville, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, Oakland and Berkeley. 

A 4.0-magnitude earthquake struck the area at 2:41 p.m. today. That quake was centered about two miles east-southeast of Berkeley, and had a depth of 6.1 miles, according to the USGS.  

After today's first quake, Keith Knudsen, deputy director of the USGS Earthquake Science Center in Menlo Park, said it was a standard Hayward Fault Line quake. 

He said the temblor was of the typical "strike-slip" variety, in which two sides of the fault slide horizontally, he said. 

Today's earthquakes occurred on the same day as the Great California ShakeOut, a statewide drill in which millions of Californians practiced ducking and covering at 10:20 a.m. today.  

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee today urged all Bay Area residents to visit www.72hours.org for emergency planning resources and tips.

Updated: Earthquake in Berkeley Now Estimated to be 3.9 Magnitude

Thursday October 20, 2011 - 02:46:00 PM

According to the U.S. Geological Service, a magnitude 4.2 3.9 4.0 earthquake rattled Berkeley today at 02:41:04 PM, with the epicenter located within blocks of the site where U.C. Berkeley's Memorial Stadium is currently being reconstructed. 

Location: 37.864°N, 122.249°W 

Depth: 9.8 km (6.1 miles) 


Distances: 2 km (2 miles) ESE (112°) from Berkeley, CA; 5 km (3 miles) NE (47°) from Emeryville, CA; 5 km (3 miles) NNW (341°) from Piedmont, CA; 8 km (5 miles) NNW (346°) from Oakland, CA 




This emailed report was received from the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) Public Information Officer (PIO) : 




The City of Berkeley Police D epartment (BPD) has received a minimal number of calls regarding ringing alarms from both community members and from various security /alarm companies monitoring services. House, business and car alarms tend to be activated as a result of earthquakes. No reports of damage or injury to this minute. BPD did a roll call directly following the quake to check the status of each of our Officers in the f ield /patrol and Parking Enforcement Officers and all were/are ok. They will report any damage , observations or injuries over the radio if located or flagged down as a result. Members of BPD f elt the quake in the Public Safety Building pretty strongly . The quake certainly got our attention and immediately raised our concern for the community . Sgt. MC Kusmiss
City of Berkeley Police Department Public Information Officer 



Berkeley City and BUSD Consider Moving Meetings to West Berkeley, Abandoning Old City Hall

By Steven Finacom
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 10:23:00 AM
The run down old cafeteria at West Campus. City and School District staff have been working on a plan to relocate City Council and BUSD Board meetings to this structure, at a cost of $2.1 million.
Steven Finacom
The run down old cafeteria at West Campus. City and School District staff have been working on a plan to relocate City Council and BUSD Board meetings to this structure, at a cost of $2.1 million.
BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett and BUSD Maintenance Director Lew Jones answer questions at the October 19, 2011 community meeting where the relocation idea was first made public.
Steven Finacom
BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett and BUSD Maintenance Director Lew Jones answer questions at the October 19, 2011 community meeting where the relocation idea was first made public.
About 40-45 community members and West Campus neighbors attended the meeting.
Steven Finacom
About 40-45 community members and West Campus neighbors attended the meeting.
After hearing numerous neighbor objections to the Council meeting room idea, Interim City Manager Christine Daniels and City Councilmember Darryl Moore huddled in private conversation.
Steven Finacom
After hearing numerous neighbor objections to the Council meeting room idea, Interim City Manager Christine Daniels and City Councilmember Darryl Moore huddled in private conversation.
The site plan for the West Campus projects, presented at the meeting. University Avenue is at the top. The prospective City Council meeting location is the small, grey, building at center right, just above the “Addison Street” label.
Steven Finacom
The site plan for the West Campus projects, presented at the meeting. University Avenue is at the top. The prospective City Council meeting location is the small, grey, building at center right, just above the “Addison Street” label.
Several modest homes sit on Addison Street directly across from the prospective City Council meeting location.
Steven Finacom
Several modest homes sit on Addison Street directly across from the prospective City Council meeting location.
Construction workers on the roof of the old cafeteria this week. BUSD representatives at the meeting said there is no construction going on at that building. The building in the rear is under construction for separate use.
Construction workers on the roof of the old cafeteria this week. BUSD representatives at the meeting said there is no construction going on at that building. The building in the rear is under construction for separate use.
The interior of the old cafeteria has been gutted down
              to the stud walls, and appears to contain construction materials for the BUSD office
              building project next door.
The interior of the old cafeteria has been gutted down to the stud walls, and appears to contain construction materials for the BUSD office building project next door.

If a proposal being developed by City and School District staff comes to fruition, a battered, vacant, one-story former cafeteria on a quiet residential side-street in West Berkeley may soon become Berkeley’s new City Council chambers—and meeting place for other City deliberative bodies, from the Rent Board to the School Board.

The project—estimated to cost $2.1 million—would trigger the essential abandonment of Berkeley’s 102 year old City Hall Downtown and the relocation of City Council and School Board meetings to the old cafeteria at “West Campus”, the School District property on University Avenue between Curtis and Bonar Streets.

The cafeteria, a dilapidated one-story structure, faces out on Addison Street between Bonar and Browning.

City and School District staff said at a community meeting Tuesday night (October 18,2011) that they have not yet presented the concept to either the School Board or the City Council for consideration.

Some of the neighbors of West Campus who spoke at the meeting characterized the meeting relocation proposal as “completely crazy”, “nuts”, ridiculous”, “not a good choice”, and “under the radar.” 

However, the project seems to be on a fast track. A School District contractor at the meeting told the audience that renovation of the cafeteria building for the proposed School Board and other meeting use is “currently getting ready to go” and would be put out to bid as early as next February or March. The Superintendent of Schools later tried to walk back that statement. 

Neighbors at the meeting, which was also attended by Councilmember Darryl Moore who represents the area, were generally skeptical about, or openly opposed to, the idea of bringing dozens of night-time City Council and other meetings a year to the small building which sits across from a row of single-story bungalows on a quiet Berkeley side street. 

The meeting had a broader purpose of updating neighbors of West Campus on School District plans for the property, including the relocation of BUSD administrative and other offices there, and the renovation of part of the site for the REALM Charter School, which currently operates elsewhere in West Berkeley. 

The extensive, and largely unoccupied, West Campus site includes the old academic, cafeteria, library, and auditorium buildings of what was once Burbank Junior High School, plus a day care center, one of the municipal swimming pools, a grass playing field, two gymnasiums, and a large parking lot. 

Construction is currently well under way on the BUSD office wing along Bonar Street, and school staff are expected to vacate current offices in old City Hall (The Maudelle Shirek Civic Center Building) on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Downtown, and move to their new quarters during winter break, or shortly thereafter. 

(The REALM Charter School construction plans are also well advanced, with the project intended to occupy part of the West Campus property along University Avenue in the 2012-13 academic year. REALM, BUSD representatives also said, would have some use of ground floor classrooms along Bonar Street, below the BUSD administrative offices.) 

The School Board / City Council meeting room proposal came up late on the agenda at the community meeting, which was held in one of the rundown gymnasiums at West Campus. 

A single piece of paper taped to the door identified the meeting site, which I found after circumnavigating the largely vacant campus. The room had abominable acoustics, and comments either boomed echoingly through the amplification system, or were barely audible, depending on who was speaking. 

About 45 community members perched on wooden bleachers, and perhaps a dozen BUSD staff and consultants were present. Berkeley’s incoming interim City Manager Christine Daniels and City Councilmember Darryl Moore also attended and spoke. No School Board members attended. 

From the audience comments and the sign-up sheets, it appeared that most of the audience members were residents of the immediate blocks surrounding the large West Campus site. 

The meeting room proposal, the presenters said, envision a $2.1 million dollar investment split between BUSD and City funds to convert the old cafeteria into a multipurpose meeting room, with bathrooms and a back area set aside as a “break room” and a kitchenette installed in the rear for City and BUSD staff attending meetings, and a broadcast room for Berkeley Community Television, which simulcasts Council and School Board meetings. 

The new space would essentially substitute for the current City Council Chambers in the Shirek Building, where the Berkeley City Council has regularly met for the past 102 years. 

Mauricio Davila who identified himself as a project manager for Turner Construction working on the West Campus site, told the audience “the Board Room (project at West Campus) right now is currently getting ready to go.” 

“We’re looking to order a contract, early 2012, late February or early March, construction beginning late March,” Davila said. “Budget is currently set at 1.2 million for the School District, and with an additional $900,000,” should the City choose to participate. 

Daniels said the existing Council Chamber in the Shirek building “is not seismically safe” and there are problems with accessibility for the disabled since the elevator is unreliable. She also said that the West Campus site would provide a bigger space so more people could get in to Council meetings, rather than being held in the hallways if the Council Chambers are filled to capacity. 

Huyett said the new room would provide about 192 seats. The capacity of the existing Council chamber is 125 seats, Daniels said. 

“The School District has had an interest in developing a Board room in the old cafeteria, and we have funded base improvements for that…” Huyett said. He likened the idea of the BUSD and Council renovating a meeting space together to the 49ers and Oakland Raiders football teams building a new stadium together, producing economies and benefits for both participants. 

When the School District proposal for the room was being developed, “the City expressed an interest in moving as well.” 

Huyett added that the renovated room would also be used for the BUSD student court, and “for staff development in the middle of the day, and we would also anticipate community use of this facility as well, going through our use permit process…” 

Huyett and Daniels emphasized that the meeting room proposal has not yet been presented to either the School Board or City Council. 

“We’ve had staff level, and I want to emphasize this, staff level discussion, about the possibilities of the City participating with us. Now this has not gone to approval stage yet. Neither the Board of Education, nor to the City Council,” Huyett said. 

“We don’t anticipate, the School District, for that action to be really done until January…” Huyett said, referring to a formal consideration of the idea by the School Board. 

“This has not come to the Council,” Daniels said. “The Council hasn’t seen the plans.” 

That was confirmed by Councilmember Moore who spoke from the audience. “The Council has had no discussion about this site for our meetings. This is the first time I’ve heard the public, others, talk about this site”, Moore said. 

“To have your feedback is critical to me, and I appreciate it”, he told the neighbors. 

Neighbor comments about the meeting room plan ranged from skeptical to outright opposition. 

“I think this is completely crazy”, said one neighbor from the bleachers. “I know you’re just ‘thinking about it’…but the idea of having hundreds of people come to a quiet residential street is absolutely nuts.” “I think you’ve got to look much harder at other solutions.” He was vigorously applauded by much of the audience. 

Kathy Harr, a neighborhood resident who is also an elected member of the Rent Board, said she was “really excited and enthused” about the school use of the West Campus site, but “that building is not a good choice” for a Council meeting space. “I think you will find that the number one concern in this neighborhood is mitigating traffic and parking.” 

Other neighbors added that Council meetings run late at night, often feature protests, rallies, and media trucks in front of the meeting location, and hundreds of people who come and go. “I anticipate large numbers of people” worried one neighbor, “large groups of people chanting. I don’t think a lot of people want that to happen.” 

The cafeteria site sits on a short, two-lane wide, block, across from four modest bungalow homes and around the corner from two other residential blocks. 

“All previous discussions have been about daytime use” of the West Campus property, a neighbor said. The meeting room use would be at night, and thus a concern. 

This was echoed later by Kathy Harr, who told me that the “neighborhood is very concerned about the Council meetings coming here, and the main reason is because they are at night.” 

She said she felt most of the neighbors were fine with day time school uses, the traditional history of the site, but “any night time activity” would be a problem for many on the residential blocks. “People in the neighborhood are VERY interested” in following the meeting room proposal, she added. 

Others expressed concern about the advisability of removing the existing cafeteria facility when the REALM school will eventually have hundreds of students on the site, no cafeteria, and a closed campus during lunch. 

“I wanted to say something about the symbolism of putting the seat of government in Berkeley on a little residential street, away from our downtown, our public transportation”, neighborhood resident business owner Kristen Kristin Leimkuhler said. She is also part of also leads the West Campus Neighbors and Merchants Alliance, a neighborhood group in the area. 

“I think it’s ridiculous, and I think it will impact the ability of citizens to come participate in their government as well. I’m really concerned about that.” 

Neighbors noted that the 52B, the “local” bus on University Avenue past the site, only passes three times an hour late at night. 

There is a parking lot at the West Campus site, between Curtis Street and Browning Street, which BUSD is planning to pave as part of the other projects. Huyett said it would accommodate 135 vehicles. 

Some neighbors said that the parking lot wouldn’t solve the problem of people trying to park as close to the meeting space and school buildings as possible. One neighbor noted that the on street spaces in front of the West Campus buildings fill up first. Huyett said that the City had the ability to restrict on-street parking, and noted he had personally gotten a “very expensive” ticket for parking in the neighborhood near the Trader Joe’s store on University Avenue. 

Others expressed concern about the increased traffic on residential Browning Street, where the parking lot entrance is located and worried about speeding cars—both present, and potential—on Curtis Street, Addison Street, and Browning, and the safety of people trying to cross University Avenue. Huyett said that the BUSD didn’t control street changes, but could talk to the City. 

“You have your right as citizens to lobby either your School Board member, or your City Council member” on the meeting room proposal, said Huyett. 

As neighbor comments mounted, he later added, “I do realize there are concerns and issues about location, and the appropriateness, and we’ll share all these notes with Board members.” 

“It’s not a decision yet. It’s a proposal that goes forward to the Board.” 

“This is really happening under the radar,” Leimkuhler said. “First you told us that the Board and Council haven’t acted on any decision. (But) Mauricio (Davila) told us there’s going to be a contract at the beginning of the year. That’s a very short window in which the decision is going to get made, and you’re going to start cranking on the construction.” 

“He’s just a construction guy, I’m a superintendent,” Huyett said in reference to Davila. 

A neighbor then asked if the cafeteria building was under construction. “It’s not currently under construction at this point, no”, Huyett said. 

“There’s definitely construction there”, a neighbor of the site later told me. 

When I looked myself at the cafeteria building it seemed clear some sort of demolition or construction work had taken place. The interior appeared to have been gutted of its finishes. Floor tiles were gone, along with wallboard, there were open stud walls supported with what looked like temporary bracing, and the hung ceiling was gone. 

Shop lights were festooned from the open rafters. Large metal louvers—possibly part of the school office building construction—were stacked in the middle of the room. 

A site visitor later supplied pictures from this week of men in hard hats on the roof of the cafeteria, where it appears stucco siding of a roof pop-up has been recently torn off. 

Neighbors noted that the West Campus site contains an unused auditorium at the corner of Bonar and University Avenue that is not part of any announced plans. 

“I don’t think you’ve looked carefully enough at other options” including the existing auditorium, said Leimkuhler “Has anyone done a financial assessment of the auditorium” and whether it would be feasible to renovate specifically for BUSD and City Council meetings, she asked? 

Daniels said, “I’m not familiar with that area” and deferred to Lew Jones, Maintenance Director for the School District. “It’s a more expensive solution”, Jones said. 

A neighbor who identified herself as Stacy said, “We would love to see the auditorium renovated, and then parking for it in the field where you can access it from University” Avenue. “We want a rocking community center. We don’t want traffic. Why can’t you just do it right?” 

Daniels said the City has tried a bond issue to renovate the Shirek building, but it did not pass. “We also tried to get Federal earmarks, and have not been successful,” she said. Renovating the current building is a “hugely expensive situation.” 

“We have been looking at a variety of other options for meeting space. It’s not easy to find some place that will seat 200 people that’s available on a regular basis.” 

“We’ve looked at the Brower Center, that didn’t work out”, she said. “We talked about the Adult School auditorium” on San Pablo Avenue, but there were “structural issues and renovation issues with that.” 

What about seeking some regular, but temporary, meeting space on the UC Campus, a neighbor asked? “It’s a fair question,” Daniels answered. 

When he commented at the end of the meeting, Councilmember Moore said that when he was a trustee of the Peralta Community College District and the building plans were finalized for Berkeley City College, a large auditorium was included. “The concept was that it could be used some day for a joint Council Chamber as well”, he told the crowd. 

“I appreciate hearing your comments and insights”, he said to the neighbors. As the meeting ended Moore huddled at one end of the room with Daniels for a brief, private, conversation. 

Daniels said at the Tuesday meeting, “I can’t bring all the places we’ve looked at to mind.” 

An anonymous City source later showed me a list of the facilities that had internally been evaluated as possible relocation sites for City Council meetings. 

The sites apparently rejected internally by City staff include the North Berkeley Senior Center (where several City Commissions currently meet), Berkeley City College (the location Moore mentioned), the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue, the David Brower Center, and the Berkeley Community Theatre (where the Council has met, on occasion, when a large crowd is anticipated), Only one alternative site has apparently received some support from staff, Longfellow School on Sacramento Street. 

Relocating Council meetings to the West Campus Cafeteria might also trigger the relocation of other city bodies that currently meet in the Council Chambers, including the Rent Stabilization Board and, on occasion, the Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustment Board. 

Would they move? “We haven’t heard. We’ve gotten nothing official, one way or the other”, Rent Board Chair Lisa Stephens told me. 

She characterized the possibility of moving the major City meeting place to West Campus as “terrible”, but said “I think they’re going to go ahead with whatever plans they’ve made.” 

When the BUSD administrative offices move, most of the Shirek Building will be vacant, except for the Council Chamber use. In recent weeks a number of individuals, including me, have asked City staff what is intended for that building after the School District moves out in a few months. 

The building will be “boarded up” is the direct response I got from one City department manager. Others have received similar responses. 


The School District has a webpage on West Campus projects here.

New: Occupy Berkeley Deliberates Reviving "How Berkeley Can You Be" Oct. 30; Calls for "Grade-in" and Lawn Watering Saturday--in Lieu of a March

by Ted Friedman
Friday October 21, 2011 - 01:05:00 PM

Next up for Occupy Berkeley, a teacher grade-in and lawn watering at Martin Luther King Center Park behind City Hall Saturday noon. No March is planned. The following week, Occupy will homage Berkeley's beloved (and not) How Berkeley Can You Be? with its own, "How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be?" 

Grade-ins, like Occupy, is a young grassroots organization, often sponsored by the Classroom Teachers Association, to alert the public to pay cuts to over-worked teachers. Teachers will be publicly grading papers while Occupy Berkeley tries to get an "A" for what an event organizer describes as "a day of education." 

It was a sight for sore eyes when Tuesday night's Occupy Berkeley planning session moved to revive Berkeley's beloved (sometimes derided ) How Berkeley Can You Be Parade as an event in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park, Sunday, Oct 30 (Halloween Eve), 3-7 p.m. 

The surprise move to revive How Berkeley leaves Occupy Berkeley's fledgling infrastructure--a slew of committees and contact lists--struggling to mount a How Berkeley event on a week's notice. 

According to a member of the facilitator's committee, events for the next two weeks will give protesters a chance to leaflet among the community and for the community "to learn about us." The learning process could be a two-way street. Especially if the usual zanies show up for How Berkeley next week. 

At the planning session (general assembly) Tuesday night at Bank America Plaza, downtown, the How Berkeley proposal competed with another proposal--"How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be." How Berkeley Can You Be seemed to be winning the hearts and minds of young protesters, many of whom would like to be Berkeley, but stagger under the ambiguity of it all. 

However, Wednesday night a How-Berkeley-Can-You-Be proposal was tabled in favor of "How Occupy Berkeley Can You Be." 

Despite debates over the naming of next Sunday's event, the protest is giving Berkeley's zany How Berkeley Can You Be (sans parade) a chance to do its thing once more--if news of the protest can only reach them. 

If the protest event fails to draw crowds on short notice next Sunday, it would not be the first time the popular event has been derailed. How Berkeley was first cancelled, in 2009, when a dip in the city's revenues forced it to remove its funding of the event. 

Numerous attempts to revive the parade have broken down. Occupy Berkeley's nod to the event is the latest attempt of Berkeley's anti-Wall Street protest, which is dwarfed by Oakland's and San Francisco's, to distinguish itself from protests around the world. 

For Berkeleyans (and those Montclairians brandishing lawn chairs) who have had two years without a parade, Sunday's event gives them one more--possibly last--chance to explore Berkeley ontology. 

And how Berkeley is it to join a revolution-in-the-making while asserting the Berkeley brand? 

Pledging itself to non-violence, Berkeley's me-too protest has eschewed a powerful media magnet Tuesday's and Wednesday's general assemblies, while spirited and more efficient than past ones, were also the smallest gatherings in ten days. 

Food support has dwindled at BA plaza, perhaps because the protest now maintains two sites. Civic Center park was added last Saturday; the overnight encampment in the park continues with (usually) ten overnighters. Three more tents have gone up, and the tent village is looking good-camper-civilized. 

Future disputes with the city of Berkeley's City Manager's Office loom over ground maintenance policies. The tent encampment interferes with the park's sprinkler system. 

Russell Bates of Occupy's Health and Safety committee appealed last night for Berkeleyans to show up at the park Saturday with watering cans. 

"Bottom-line," said Bates, "We are not moving out of the park." 

Meanwhile the continuing interface between Occupy and Berkeley's downtown homeless, with which it must co-exist, erupted Tuesday night into a confrontation between some angry Berkeleyans confronting the newly formed mediation committee--which, the previous night, had driven off a woman who was interfering. 

The confrontation between protesters and the newly formed mediation committee took place at the end of the general assembly Tuesday when committees caucused for the first time--rather than reconvening around town. 

Calling the mediation committee, "a gestapo," Michael M. (sixty-something) challenged a mediation committee member (twenty something) to prove he had the qualifications to deal with homeless persons with disabilities. The mediations committee point person agreed to contact Berkeley Mental Health--with which he was unfamiliar--to arrange a training. 

Two members of the Occupy Berkeley's communications committee were interviewed on KPFA Wednesday's "Flashpoint" show. 

Perhaps the Occupy Berkeley protest will go into the history books as an emerging populist struggle with a fresh approach to community organizing. 

Ted Friedman has been hearing this Petula Clark song in his head (about the protest): "When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know, downtown." The protest is downtown.

Berkeley City College Student Wins Norman Mailer Writing Award

Thursday October 20, 2011 - 03:09:00 PM

Editor's Note: The Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony has announced that this year’s recipient of the National Community College Nonfiction Writing Award is Christopher Woodard of Berkeley City College. He'll get his award and a check for $5,000 at the Center’s third annual benefit gala on Tuesday, November 8 in New York City. Honorary Chair Tina Brown (Newsweek and The Daily Beast) and an advisory board of writers including Joan Didion, William Kennedy, Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Gay Talese, and others will host a lively evening of cocktails, dinner, and an awards ceremony. The Planet is pleased to reprint the winning essay below: 


By Christopher Woodard 

It's December 31st 2009, and we still haven't decided what we're doing for New Year’s. I've spent the majority of the past week-and-a-half holed up in Nicole’s Honatsugi apartment reading novels I brought for the trip while she works ten-hour days teaching English at a language immersion school. On top of that, the majority of her free time has to be devoted to her grad-school applications as the deadlines loom. The rest of that free time is spent fretting about all the reasons she is certain she is wasting her time and her life. Timing my visit for the holidays is turning out to be ill-considered. 

She asks me if I've thought of what I'd like to do tonight. I’d like to tell her that not only do I have no idea, I don't know how I'd go about getting one; just because I play a lot of videogames and have seen a lot of Akira Kurosawa flicks does not make me knowledgeable about modern Japan's night life, and furthermore, isn’t she the one who’s been living here for four months? Instead I say no. 

Somewhere online she finds out about a Zojoji Temple near the Tokyo Tower that involves a ceremony where you write down a wish on a card and tie it to a balloon to be released into the air at the stroke of midnight. This sounds like a better idea to Nicole than my suggestion that we just stay in and watch a movie and fool around. She says that would be a waste of a New Year’s in Japan, that a friend of hers who has an apartment in the city is visiting the states for the holiday and she has the key. This apparently decides the matter; we will spend New Year’s in Tokyo. 


We finally exit the subway station in downtown Tokyo after a two-hour-long train trek and I see an Eiffel Tower knock-off a few blocks away that retains none of the original’s romantic charisma due to its gaudy construction-orange and white paint job necessitated by Civil Aeronautic Law. The French caught a break by building their observation tower fifty-one years before the standards of flight were formalized which, from a historical perspective, is just in the nick of time; two towers built for the same function and the mile-wide enchantment gap I figure is mostly a matter of timing. I stare at the charmless doppelganger and ask myself, where the hell am I? 

Realizing we have not accounted for food, Nicole suggests we eat our New Year’s dinner in a buffet-style Chinese restaurant in the base of the tower. Japan's Chinese cuisine is much the same as the kind back home. I wonder out loud if they actually eat any of this food in this particular style in China while Nicole orders some cheap red wine. It arrives, and to her tastes significantly above room temperature. 

She browses the overcrowded tower gift shop for souvenirs while I passively-anxiously wait outside. What little free time she has that we spend together seems to end up frequently in stores as she usually works past normal business hours. Unfortunately I have a particular distaste for any shopping experience and have trouble faking or copping to it. Before she heads into a store she asks if I mind. I say no. When done she apologizes and I say there is nothing to apologize for. 

We end up at a temple that, save for two Buddhist monks, is empty. This is a tip-off that we are at the wrong temple and we walk to a temple directly next to it which is indeed Zojoji. The situation should be humorous but is somehow instead aggravating. I try to recall if she was drinking earlier in the day before the Chinese-buffet wine. Back at the apartment, there is a giant grouping of empty wine bottles next to various knotted plastic convenience-store bags used for garbage as she can’t find a store that sells anything resembling a garbage bag in Japan. The number of empty bottles makes it hard to gauge if any new ones have appeared. I realize that it is a pointless question to consider; of course she’s been drinking. This is New Year’s Eve, this is Nicole. 

There are food stalls set-up all over the temple grounds and Nicole laments our decision to eat Chinese but finds herself still hungry enough to wait in line for some takoyaki which she tells me are octopus balls. Normally I would intentionally misinterpret her description as referring to the testicles of an octopus as opposed to the description of the food’s shape for the easy laugh but find myself unable to so instead, I nod as we wait in the fifteen-person deep line. 

Twenty minutes pass and we are now five away from the octopus balls. Nearby, a Japanese man shouts something with a voice of authoritative information. I hear some other English speakers attempt to interpret his message and it has something to do with balloons and a line. Too conditioned to not speak to strangers in a place with such a foreign language, I conveniently ignore that the people near me just spoke English and suggest to Nicole that if we want to participate in the balloon ceremony we may need to do so now. I don’t present the gentlemanly option—suggest she wait and get her food while I look into the matter—because I don’t have a cell phone and am scared of getting lost in downtown Tokyo with no means of contacting anyone about anything, only marginally aware that this rationalization marks me a coward. 

Nicole gives up her place in line as we try to find either a large group of people or a large group of balloons. We find the people in a large zigzag line of several hundred with the end tapered off. She finds an attendant and in halting Japanese tries to find out what the deal is: we arrived too late to participate in the balloon ceremony as the wishing cards were handed out about half an hour before we arrived at Zojoji. The Chinese-buffet dinner has come back to taunt us. Again. 

We are back in line for octopus balls, now thirty deep. At some point people have to cut through the line while heading to the temple, pushing Nicole back into me. Not having said much since learning about our conspicuously poor timing for events, I reach around her waist and pull her into me. It is the first intimate gesture we’ve had all day and as I feel the warmth of her stomach with my hands, her shoulders pressing back against my chest, her hair against my neck, things feel like they will be just fine. The line moves forward and she pulls away. I say nothing. 

We sit on a small stone wall supporting a garden bed while she eats her takoyaki. Feeling thirsty and chilly I get a Royal Milk Tea from a nearby vending machine and share it with her; the omnipresent vending machines in Japan are capable of providing hot beverages which have become my most consistent pleasure on this trip. An old man approaches us, he looks exactly like the animated caricatures of an elderly homeless person I’d seen in some Animes; under five feet tall, severely hunched with a large backpack, eyes seemingly forever closed because of his large ever-present smile. Nicole does her best to translate his slurred speech; the most we get from him is that he is fond of Americans because of an event from his past and that the police give him a hard time. There is innocuous warmth to the man, warmer than even my newly-precious Royal Milk Tea, and I find myself hoping he spends the rest of the evening with us. As I am about to ask Nicole if it would be socially awkward to give money to the man, he thanks us and shakes my hand to head off somewhere else. 


The countdown is near as we stand with the crowd, pressed against each other from the compaction of hundreds of people in a small temple courtyard. I do not put my arms around her. A large digital clock above the temple begins to count down from sixty. The Tokyo Tower, looming behind the temple, disappears into the starless night as its lights are shut off. No one starts counting down until the timer reaches ten. The true variety of nationalities present is revealed as no single coherent language emerges from the crowd, it is arrhythmic and garbled like the echo of Babel. Before 2009 ends I silently tell it to go fuck itself. 

The Tokyo Tower reappears with 2010 embedded vertically on its side in bright Time Square lights. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of wish balloons are released by those savvy enough to not eat dinner at a Chinese buffet-style restaurant, the translucent-white ovoids floating to a near-full moon with wish-affixed rope tails wagging behind them like hell-bent sperm. There are cheers and hugs and kisses. Nicole leans back with her head against my shoulder and looks at me. We kiss a kiss that feels more a formality than an expression. I think back to that time on a Brooklyn rooftop four years ago before we became what we are; near the East River’s edge with that perfect unobstructed view of the Manhattan Skyline outlined by fireworks, I was determined that I would kiss her at midnight. Instead I chickened out and kissed our mutual gay friend Tom. That may have been a better kiss. 

A monk begins ringing a giant bell in the courtyard. He is supposed to do this one hundred and eight times. We decide we do not need to see more than five. Before we descend into the subway I take a look back on that unfortunate victim of timing that is the Tokyo Tower and marvel how even with lights bright enough to obscure its romance-sapping paint job, it manages to not be in any way exciting. 

I sympathize. 


It takes us an hour to get to her friend’s apartment. It has not been heated in over a week and is colder than the cold evening we just came in from. We settle into the bed fully clothed and drained. Nicole has made it clear that fooling around in here isn’t going to happen as it would be inconsiderate to her friend. Though expectantly disappointed, I am happy to keep my clothes on for the consistent warmth. She decides to read her Murakami book about the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways. I tell her to enjoy it, happy New Year’s, good night and I love her. She reciprocates. 

As I fall asleep next to a woman I have wanted and loved for the better part of the decade, the totality of my adulthood thus far, I struggle with what would be on that wish card if we hadn’t stopped for that Chinese buffet-style dinner. So many evenings of jealous paranoias, of long playful talks, of stolen kisses and unexpected intimacies, of doubts and assertions, hopes and expectations, surprise phone calls and last minute drives, of devoted whispers and tender clutches; let all those end soon with few tears. 


Copyright 2011 © by Christopher Woodard 

Earthquake Advice

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 02:55:00 PM

Having been warned by scientists that the Bay Area is due a sizable earthquake in the next 30 years, we're passing on valuable information [found on a postcard, author unknown] on what to do when that earthquake occurs.  


Conduct practice drills. Physically place yourself in safe locations. Like Wyoming. 

Ignore all warnings. This guarantees nothing bad will happen. Remember, mind over matter. 

Know the danger spots: unsecured bookshelves, fireplaces, your mother-in-law's house. 

Carry a portable phone at all times so you'll be able to call for help from underneath all the rubble. 


Panic! Whatever you do, panic! This world can always use some more fear, chaos and violence. 

Watch for falling objects, real estate and real estate prices. 


Take a drive, get in the way of emergency vehicles. 

Go through stoplights, give everyone the finger. You've just been through a very traumatic event. You have a right to act like a jerk. 

Help the economic recovery. Sell the rubble of your life as souvenirs to tourists. 

Throw a party for those who survived. The ruins, tires and sirens will provide a dramatic atmosphere, insuring a unique and memorable evening for all. 

Check for gas leaks with a lighted match. That way you'll explode, causing no further damage to anyone!

Press Release: Village Movement Takes Root among UC Berkeley’s Dynamic Elders

By Yasmin Anwar | UCB Media Relations
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 03:22:00 PM

Launched just over a year ago in the San Francisco Bay Area’s East Bay, the 170-member social network – driven in considerable part by expertise and membership from the University of California, Berkeley – is among the newest additions to the Village Movement, a nationwide, neighbor-helping-neighbor effort that has spread to more than 50 U.S. cities and communities.

“It’s about being engaged with a lot of really smart people and trying to figure out what we want our community to look like as we get older,” said Steve Lustig, former associate vice chancellor of health and human services at UC Berkeley, and an Ashby Village board member.

Next week (Oct. 24-26), the Village to Village Network, a national nonprofit organization that helps communities manage their villages, will host its annual conference in Oakland. An envoy of some two dozen Ashby Village members will attend. Speakers will include UC Berkeley social welfare professor Andrew Scharlach, whose research on aging-friendly communities has contributed to the Village Movement’s success. 

There are currently 65 villages in operation in the United States, and 115 being developed. Scharlach, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Advanced Study of Aging Services, is launching a nationwide survey to identify the successes and failures of the Village Movement. He sees a hunger for an alternative to spending one’s older years in a retirement home, assisted living facility, with relatives or feeling isolated. Demographers project that by 2050, one in five Americans will be seniors and part of a wave they call the “Silver Tsunami.” 

“We’re all getting older and have seen our parents go through the aging process. We don’t yet have good structures in place, but we’re working on it,” Scharlach said. 

The grassroots Village Movement was started in 2002 by older academics and other professionals in Boston, Mass., who wanted as seniors to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, remain connected to like-minded people and have easy access to service providers. Their answer was to create Beacon Hill, a village that now boasts more than 350 members whose ages range from the low 50s to the high 90s. 

Ashby Village, launched in 2010 with $80,000 in membership fees and donations from charter members, is in its early youth. But its numbers have grown fast through such recruitment strategies as neighborhood “Living Room Chats” and the chance to be part of an exciting movement, something bigger than oneself. The annual fee is $750 for individuals and $1,200 per household. 

Calls to the Ashby Village switchboard range from the mundane to the extraordinary. Take Joan Cole, 82, a psychologist who taught social welfare at UC Berkeley. When dementia prevented her 89-year-old husband from completing his memoir, she asked Ashby Village for a volunteer. Michelle McGuiness, a young lawyer, showed up and created a video version. 

“He has a sense of completion,” Cole said of her husband. “It’s a miracle.” In addition, McGuiness is among several volunteers who spend “movie night” with Cole’s husband when Joan Cole attends her Thursday night Berkeley Broadway Singers chorus. 

“So everyone is happy, and I have peace of mind,” Cole said. 

Like UC Berkeley itself, Ashby Village tends to attract scholars who think outside the box. Not surprisingly, many members cut their teeth in the 1960s counterculture movement, and have been politically active and/or community-minded ever since. 

“A village takes on the culture of that community,” said Andy Gaines, executive director of Ashby Village and one of its two paid staff members. “Our members are very interested in creating aging in a different way and being part of an alternative movement.” 

With a corps of 60 trained volunteers, preferred service providers, and a highly active membership, Ashby Village – headquartered on Durant Avenue across from the Berkeley City Club – is among nine villages to each receive a $100,000 grant from the Archstone Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on improving the quality of life for elderly Americans. 

"If villages are successful and sustainable, then together we will be pioneers in a movement that will be tailored to meet the needs of an aging population," said Joseph F. Prevratil, president and CEO of the Archstone Foundation. 

Gaines hopes to see membership double, and more volunteers and service providers added to meet the increased demand. In addition to a fall membership drive, the village continues to build relationships with organizations including the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, Lifelong Medical Care and Jewish Family and Children Services of the East Bay. 

At least one-third of Ashby Village members volunteer to help other members, which increases the sense of engagement the organization is striving for. 

“It’s when they’re giving or receiving help that people feel most connected,” said Lustig, 66, who is working on a strategic plan for Ashby Village with the help of village member William Webster, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering and former vice provost of academic planning and facilities. 

On Nov. 3, Ashby Village is hosting an event to foster even stronger connections with UC Berkeley. Efforts will include recruiting student volunteers and forging ties with the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, which serves some 14,000 individuals and their spouses, including 7,500 retired UC Berkeley staff, 1,000 faculty emeriti, 2,500 members of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the UC Office of the President. 

Patrick Cullinane, director of the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, reports that more than 600 new retirees became members of the center during the 2010-11 fiscal year, and that it is open to networking with organizations such as Ashby Village and The Berkeley Project, in which UC Berkeley students and city residents work together on public service efforts. 

Sondra Jensen, 69, came to UC Berkeley as a student in 1959, and went on to work in the campus’s human resources and housing and dining divisions. Since retiring a few years ago, the Ashby Village member and volunteer has built “Smooth Moves,” a business that helps elderly people downsize in preparation for moving from their homes to smaller places or retirement facilities. 

“We’ve met people who should have moved years ago,” she said. “Had they had Ashby Village, they may not have had to move, but they didn’t have that support.” 

She has yet to ask the village for personal help. However, with her husband recently disabled from a spinal cord injury, she anticipates a time will come when they will need both practical assistance and the camaraderie provided through their Ashby Village membership. 

Herb Strauss, 75, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of chemistry, said he was grateful for his membership when he spent an entire day at Oakland’s Kaiser Permanente Hospital being evaluated for emergency surgery. His exhausted wife, Carolyn North, called for help, and volunteers sat with her during the surgery that evening, then drove her home. 

"Our kids are scattered around the country, so we're more isolated than we'd like to be," Strauss said. 

Even though her children are close by, Cole said she doesn’t want to “wear them out” by calling them each time her husband, who’s in hospice care, takes a fall. 

As for the future of Ashby Village, said Cole, “I want this to be here when my children grow old.” 



Andy Gaines, andy@ashbyvillage.org, (510) 204-9200
Steve Lustig, stevelustig45@gmail.com
Andrew Scharlach, scharlach@berkeley.edu
Joan Cole, joan@joanhcole.com
Herb Strauss, hls@berkeley.edu
Sondra Jensen, sjensen@berkeley.edu

Berkeley City Officials Push UC to Choose West Berkeley for New LBNL Site--
With No Public Review(News Analysis)

By Zelda Bronstein
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 09:13:00 AM

Mayor Bates and his allies like to gripe about public process in Berkeley, complaining that an inordinate amount of citizen participation results in costly and unnecessary delays. But a striking aspect of our current civic affairs is the lack, if not total absence, of public process with respect to some of the biggest issues in town.

The problem of City employees’ budget-busting benefits, for example, was last agendaized, as they say in City Hall, at the council’s meeting on January 18, 2011 . The plan to spend $1.4 million to renovate the West Campus cafeteria into a meeting space for the council has never appeared on the public agenda of the council or any City commission.

Neither has the distinct possibility that Berkeley will house the second campus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The second LBNL campus is a very big deal. The first phase will involve 480,000 square feet of development; the second will bring that figure up to two million. Square feet aside, the presence of the second lab will raise land values and boost the “innovation” quotient of whatever place it occupies.

Twenty-three applicants responded to the RFQ that was issued in January 2011. Six made it to the final round.

One, from Wareham Development, would situate the new facility partly in Berkeley and partly in Emeryville, wholly in Berkeley or wholly in Emeryville . A second, from The Stronach Group, would locate it on the current site of Golden Gate Fields racetrack (owned by the Group), which is partly in Berkeley and partly in Albany . A third, from the Goldin brothers and the Jones family, would put the new campus alongside Berkeley's Aquatic Park . The other three possible sites are in Alameda (the former Naval Station), Oakland (the Estuary) and Richmond (the University of California Field Station).

Wherever it goes, the project will have an immense impact on the surrounding community. Accordingly, the second LBNL campus has been publicly vetted by every prospective host city—except Berkeley. 

I recently emailed Berkeley’s Public Information Officer Mary Kay Clunies-Ross asking why the project had never appeared on a council agenda. She emailed back that since the council sets its own agenda, she couldn’t answer the question “definitively” and then added that what she’s told other reporters is that “unlike the sites in the other cities, the Berkeley sites are all privately owned.” In a subsequent email, Bates’ Chief of Staff Julie Sinai elaborated on Clunies-Ross’s point. “None of the Berkeley sites are on property owned or controlled by the City of Berkeley and no development proposal has been put forward to the City for approval,” Sinai wrote. “If one of the three Berkeley sites is selected, City staff and the Council will assess what Council action may be needed to address the development proposal and its impacts.” 

This, then, is the party line. As per Sinai’s reply, the second campus is presumed to be a matter that concerns only City officials. Only council approval matters; no need to solicit the views of Berkeley citizens. 

Indeed, despite the fact that the second campus has never been publicly deliberated by the council, last summer Councilmember Darryl Moore and top Berkeley staff spoke glowingly of the Lab, the project and our city’s amenities at the LBNL-sponsored community meetings about the Emeryville/Berkeley and Aquatic Park sites. In a video played at those meetings as well as at the one about the Golden Gate Fields venue, Mayor Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio followed suit. Moore and Office of Economic Development Director Michael Caplan actually appear in the video promoting the Aquatic Park proposal. Given the Bates administration’s hostility to citizen participation, this chutzpah is hardly surprising. 

But the rationale about private property not coming under the council’s aegis, offered by both Sinai and Clunies-Ross, is bizarre even for the Bates regime. The City’s Zoning Ordinance is all about private property. It’s public property—most notably, the UC campus—that lies outside the City’s control. 

Every case brought before the Zoning Appeals Board, and, if the ZAB’s decision is appealed, before the Council, concerns private property. The fact that Golden Gate Fields is privately owned hasn’t stopped Albany from sponsoring an extensive public process about the The Stronach Group’s proposal for that site. 

Left in the dark by their own city’s officials, Berkeley citizens have had to scrounge information about the second LBNL campus from a hodgepodge of sources: a meeting of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce ; a poll administered over the phone last December ; the LBNL Second Campus website, which features full-length videos of the six community meetings from last summer ; the website of the City of Albany’s Voices to Vision 2 public process, which deals with the future of that city’s waterfront ; the Albany Patch

As the foregoing list suggests, there’s more information available about the Golden Gate Fields proposal than the plans for the other two Berkeley locations. That’s partly because the disposition of the Albany waterfront is a highly (if not the most) controversial issue in that city. 

In 2006 Albanians bitterly quarreled over a proposal by the racetrack owner to build a mall and a casino at the site. The proposal for the second LBNL campus has also divided the citizenry and elicited stiff opposition from the Sierra Club, which objects to the proposed urbanization of open space. But the challenges aren’t just coming from environmentalists. 

The racetrack is a major source of revenue for the small city of Albany, generating $1.4 million a year in taxes. If the racetrack is replaced by the Lab, and the property remains in private hands, the site will continue to generate property tax, but the parcel tax that supports Albany schools will be lost. That prospect is a dealbreaker for Albany officials and residents. Local divisiveness could well diminish the chances that the site will be selected by the Lab, since one criterion for the location of the second campus is “a welcoming community.” 

With that criterion in mind, the Golden Gate Fields Development Team is aggressively courting residents of both Albany and Berkeley. Responding to complaints from Albany citizens, as well as demands from the Lab, it has revised its initial plan. 

The latest iteration includes a 12-story hotel to be built on the northern (Albany) portion of the site its function is to replenish the tax revenue lost from the racetrack. Phase 2 includes a second hotel to be built on the southern (Berkeley) portion. The developers have also rearranged buildings in an effort to provide more open space. 

These changes and others can be viewed and discussed with the developers at open houses at the racetrack scheduled for October 17, October 24 and November 1 from 4 to 7 pm. 

But The Stronach Group is also resorting to less transparent means of persuasion. On September 30, I was surveyed over the phone about my opinion of the Golden Gate Fields proposal, the Lab, the decision-making process for the second campus and Berkeley government and officials. 

This was a push poll, and a very pushy one at that. The questioner posed many hypotheticals—if you knew that the Golden Gate Fields proposal was designed by the same green architects who did the Academy of Science, or that this project would unpave one of the largest parking lots in Alameda County and so forth, how would you rate this proposal? 

At the end, I was asked if I wanted to change my mind about anything (I did not). I was also asked, who should finally decide? An appointed task force, the Berkeley City Council, or a vote of the people? I chose the third option. 

Last Friday I spoke to the head of the Golden Gate Fields team, Wei Chiu of Newell Real Estate Advisors in Palo Alto. I asked him if his group had sponsored the poll. He said it had, that the survey itself had been formulated and administered by Next Generation, and that the results were “overall very positive.” He also confirmed that The Stronach Group plans to run ballot initiatives in Albany and Berkeley in June, aiming to demonstrate citizen support for the project. When I noted that the Lab is supposed to make its final decision in late November, Chiu said that date “was only a guideline, not a hard date,” adding that the Lab keeps changing its deadlines. His hope is that LBNL “will reduce the group of six to a lesser number and delay the final decision.” 

Rumor has it that Tom Bates and Loni Hancock favor the Golden Gate Fields site. The September phone survey implied that the site’s leading rivals are the Wareham proposal for Berkeley and/or Emeryville, and the Richmond proposal. Wareham already houses some of the facilities that are going to be consolidated in the second campus, meaning, its supporters argue, that locating the campus there would save money and time. But the land in Richmond, the 90-acre Richmond Field Station, is owned by UC, meaning the Lab would have more control of its future there than in a place where it was a tenant, and that the project wouldn’t result in any loss of tax revenue. 

The RFQ bluntly states that “RFS by and large meets the parameters of the Site Attributes,” and that “Respondents to this RFQ should know that the University may choose to site the second campus at RFS and will be evaluating potential sites relative to their ability to better meet the needs of the University [which administers the Lab] and the DOE (which owns it). With regard to at least one of those attributes—proximity to the existing LBNL, Richmond is however less appealing than the Berkeley, Emeryville or Albany venues. 

Whether the Lab sticks to its November date for a final decision or extends the selection process, Berkeley officials need to get out of the backroom (and the film studio) and start providing their constituents—that means Berkeley citizens, not the developers, the Lab or the University—with an opportunity to find out what’s going on with the second campus and to tell their elected representatives, in mayoral Chief of Staff Sinai’s words, “what Council action may be needed to address the development proposal and its impacts.”

Inside "Occupy Berkeley"—A Week in the Life of a Nascent Revolution

by Ted Friedman
Monday October 17, 2011 - 11:06:00 AM
Last week and days before she resigned, Sistah, fires up the "general assembly--at Occupy Berkeley
Ted Friedman
Last week and days before she resigned, Sistah, fires up the "general assembly--at Occupy Berkeley
From left, Miles, with notes, John, Bo-Peter, Rachel co-facilitating last week at BA Plaza
Ted Friedman
From left, Miles, with notes, John, Bo-Peter, Rachel co-facilitating last week at BA Plaza
Last week, when Michael Delacour, center, arm raised, was not yet disaffected with Occupy Berkeley
Ted Friedman
Last week, when Michael Delacour, center, arm raised, was not yet disaffected with Occupy Berkeley

The first thing some protesters experience is demo-paranoia.

Paranoia shone its bloodshot eyes early—on all factions among the protesters.

Some of the paranoia: fear that the occupy movement is a sting operation to identify America's most dangerous radicals and charge them as terrorists: fear of provocateurs and obstructionists; fear of being co-opted by larger movements; fear of politicians, fear of reporters and photographers; fears that unauthorized flyers and buttons would not benefit the protest; and the fear that someone would steal the donations that support the protest.

Saturday, I investigated a suspicious police training in a large building (the old U.C. Press Building), at Oxford and Center. Signs in the lobby touted police trainings, and an FBI Van was parked out front, less than a half block from Saturday's protest. 

As I peered through the window, someone stepped outside and asked if I had any questions, although he was the one with a question: Who are you? 

I told him the rumors about police trainings being a cover for a surveillance operation. His answer—that the event had been planned for three months— sent me packing. 

But if this was a thoughtful government surveillance, wouldn't "they" have known the protest's plans for months? In fact Berkeley activists seemed to have been openly working up to a major protest for months. Saturday night, a vehicle with four policemen parked the wrong way on Center, across from the new occupying encampment, gawked for a while and left. 

Reportedly, the squad car's identification insignia had been taped-over, and carried four uniformed Berkeley police, possibly fresh from their training at the press building. 

We're taking paranoia seriously. 

But it wasn't threats from without, which marked the first week, but threats from within. 

Some protesters quickly adopted protest protocols that came by way of Spain and Manhattan, while others struggled. 

"Mike check" is a call and response technique which requires speakers to craft brief sound-bytes that are then repeated by the audience. Mike check was necessary in Manhattan where mikes were banned. Not everyone could adapt to the unfamiliar format. Some called it programmed, "robotic," or just weird. The term "manchurian candidate," was heard. Indeed some of the statements and proclamations sounded canned. 

Attempts were made to introduce the more familiar Roberts Rules of Order, a staple of PTAs, fraternal organizations, and unions, but this failed. Still, "point of order," dies hard. Some facilitators have allowed it. 

Occupiers prefer hand signals to Roberts. For opposing, you cross your hands at the wrist at chest-level. 

Some of the facilitators have said they are impatient with rambling speeches. Friday, a protester called "Propeller Head" (propeller on a bike helmet) was warned that he was disrupting when he vowed to "block everything," in protest against the process. 

A discussion on whether a vendor could sell his own Occupy Berkeley buttons took more than fifteen minutes. Often a proposal that was "passed," in one meeting is not enforced the next night. A thirty minute discussion over right to photograph was passed, but not enforced the next night. 

Then there was an ideological rift when Michael Delacour saw his Berkeley demonstration—launched from the People's Park stage—grabbed from him by mesmerizing Cal students that he thought he was recruiting. Apparently the students were recruiting him. 

The Delacour embroilment came to a head at Friday's general assembly, the night before Saturday’s major rally and march downtown. Delacour proposed a general strike to shut down the nation's workforce and infrastructure. When there were no pros and several cons, Mike left angrily with the mike. It was his equipment. 

He returned the equipment the next day in time for the keynote speaker to spark off the march downtown. 

In a fiery resignation, Friday, "Sistah," one of the most inspirational speakers in the GA (if only she didn't repeat herself), characterized Occupy as "deceptive, inexperienced or arrogant at best, or simply dangerous in that it puts too many vulnerable people at risk…." 

Before splitting, she charged that the protest was dominated by Adbuster's magazine, a 

120,00-circulation Canadian magazine with more than half its readers in the U.S. Sistah's charge was fueled by the key role in the protest -someone described in Adbusters \ast year as "a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley and is writing a book about the future of activism." 

This Berkeley "independent activist" recently spawned an anti-corporatist movement that launched from lower Manhattan in September to spread throughout the world. 

The independent activist and writer does not want to be named, but anyone can find him hiding in their computers. The Adbusters activist has made several low-key visits to Occupy Berkeley, and has gone out of his way to be just another protester. While in attendance, he always seems to be enjoying himself. 

This editor's publicity-shy attitude may come from yet another paranoia—that some popular figure will hijack the protest. Participants you could swear were leading want to be called facilitators. The facilitators' committee is open to the public and anyone—with a little training provided by the committee—can facilitate. So everyone leads. 

All week we were asking "How Berkeley is Occupy Berkeley?" when the franchise turns out to have been inspired by a Berkeley resident (newbie) and his Adbuster colleagues. How Berkeley is that? 

Or is the "independent activist," just another outside agitator like Benjamin, who is accused of being one in "The Graduate?" 

If you launch an international protest from Berkeley that will get you into the history books, you should get credit whether you want it or not. And maybe Berkeley will get its own credit, yet. 


Ted Friedman, Off-beat South side reporter for the Planet, is again off-beat. Michael M. 

contributed. Friedman's six-part protest series (daily coverage) ran last week.

The Unfinished Legacy of 2010: How a massive Democratic voter cop-out in last year’s elections put the reactionary right in the driver’s seat (News Analysis)

By Frank Viviano (New America Media)
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 10:23:00 AM

Take a close and objective look at the angry demonstrators now gathered on Wall Street, and at similar protest encampments burgeoning from San Francisco to Madrid. What you see is not simply a vast expression of rage at the crisis enveloping the world of democracy.

The demonstrations also frame a fundamental contradiction – a profound source of strength that has been transformed into a disabling weakness.

They deserve enormous credit for drawing a global spotlight to the perpetrators of that crisis: a sinister cabal of financial scamsters and rightwing politicians, backed by the dubiously “grass-roots” electorate of the Tea Party. What almost no one, on the right or left alike, wants to talk about is that the cabal was empowered by the very people who are now denouncing it.

Progressives, out of a mixture of political correctness and embarrassment, carefully avoid the subject. The Republicans are delighted at the silence, because it masks what should be fatal weaknesses in their own position.

It may not be pleasant to hear, but a massive Democratic voter cop-out in last year’s elections is what put the reactionary right in the driver’s seat, creating the disastrous logjam in Congress, and bringing to a dead halt the hyper-active first two years of the Obama Administration. 

Cop-out at the Polls 

In 2008, more than 65 million Americans cast Democratic votes in Congressional races, a 13 million-vote edge over the Republicans. In 2010, the Democratic vote plummeted to an abysmal 35 million, 6 million less than the G.O.P., which took decisive power in the House and paralyzed the Senate. 

We think we know this story. But the truth is, we haven’t begun to absorb its full details and implications yet: 

The number of voters under 24 who bothered to go to the polls in 2010 dropped by a stupefying 60 percent, and those between 24 and 29 by almost 50 percent. Altogether, the participation of young people – who had been overwhelmingly pro-Obama in 2008– declined by 11 million votes. Among over-65-year-olds, the core of the Tea Party Movement, the voting numbers barely changed, from 17.6 million in 2008 to 17.5 million in 2010. The African-American vote fell by 40 percent, and the Hispanic vote by almost 30 percent. Among the mostly white voters who earn more than $200,000 per year, the turnout fell by a scant 5 percent, from 7 million to 6.5 million. Voting by those with annual incomes under $30,000 dropped by 33 percent, more than six times the figure for the affluent. 

In effect, the abstainers turned a potential Democratic landslide into a full-scale collapse – with nightmarish consequences for civil rights, for the U.S. and world economies, and for social programs that range across the board from health care and educational funding to employment programs, pension benefits and the sagging national infrastructure. 

It was a dream come true for the radical right, the sworn enemies of all public services. Their vote, measured at exit polls asking whether government was too intrusive, scarcely changed between the two elections, dropping from 50 million to 47 million. 

At the same time, the number of voters believing that government should do more for its citizens – the central plank of the progressive platform – sunk from 60 million to 32 million, a staggering 47 percent slide. 

These are astronomical, game-changing numbers. It makes no sense to argue that the Democratic voting collapse was a matter of demoralization. Decisions on whether to go to the polls were made by the early autumn of 2010, just 20 months into an Obama Administration that had pushed through what many analysts regard as the most ambitious legislative agenda in modern U.S. history. 

Half a century ago, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez understood that genuine change could only be achieved through long term, patient struggle – and that the prize, in King’s famous words, was full access to the nation’s key institutions, notably the ballot box and the governing seats it fills. 

The leaders and foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Era fought with unflagging commitment, and King himself was martyred, in a two-decade campaign for the voting privileges that 2010 abstainers dismissed as unworthy of an hour’s time on a single Tuesday in November. The Wall Street demonstrators are now debating an even broader boycott of the 2012 presidential election. 

Yet if two-thirds of the 28 million progressive stay-at-homes had gone to the polls last year, the U.S. Congress today would be in the hands of a solid Democratic majority beholden to liberal votes. 

The Republicans’ Best Hope 

The nation’s key institutions stand at a momentous crossroads, ripe for fresh ideas and energy. 

But in response, the anthem so far is nebulous anti-institutionalism, a “leaderless resistance movement,” as the Occupy Wall Street web site proudly boasts, without defined structure or goals. “It’s not any more about parties, organizations or unions,” declares the manifesto of its Spanish counterpart, the International Commission of Sol, which also calls for mass abstention from voting. 

Visceral impatience is endemic today, especially where the young are concerned. The Internet Age, with its virtual substitutes for the real thing -- for tangible community, for productive struggle – promises to deliver on every desire, easily and instantly. Just twitter a crowd into the streets, and the rest will fall into place. But the hard truth is that it takes far more than that. Ask the Iranians, the Tunisians and Egyptians, who are invariably cited as models by the Spanish and American protestors. 

Neither easy nor instant solutions are possible when a society faces the challenges that greeted the incoming Obama Administration in January of 2009. The nation’s first African-American president took office amidst two unwinnable and unfunded wars and a global economic crash unparalleled since the Great Depression. He was confronted by a rabid political opposition that challenged the new president’s very right to govern on trumped-up charges that he is not certifiably “American,” when their transparent subtext was that he is not white. 

As much as anything else, Barack Obama’s ascent to the presidency was about the slow work of acquiring power and responsibility in the machinery of representative government. So too were the many milestones that preceded his victory: the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that dismantled segregated schools; the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin; its elaboration in 1965 with a Voting Rights Act that removed the last obstacles to the polls, and a presidential executive order enforcing affirmative action guidelines. 

Each of those institutional steps flowed from the pressure exerted by election results, and each of them helped rewrite the terms of national life. Only someone who was not alive in the 1950s, when the struggle began in earnest, could maintain that nothing important has changed in the United States since then. 

It is far more accurate to say that almost everything has changed – which is what terrifies the conservative right. They recognize that the institutions of representative democracy are expressions of collective interest, and that the crucial vectors of population and age are aligned against them. 

Their sole hope for turning back the clock lies in a new majority that doesn’t bother to vote.

One Fountain, One Hundred Years: The Circle Has a Centennial Party

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 09:05:00 AM
The Circle bear cubs wore party hats in honor of the fountain centennial celebrated Sunday, October 16, 2011.
Steven Finacom
The Circle bear cubs wore party hats in honor of the fountain centennial celebrated Sunday, October 16, 2011.
Volunteer Sarah Hughes and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli led the birthday celebration.
Steven Finacom
Volunteer Sarah Hughes and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli led the birthday celebration.
A crowd of hundreds assembled for the event.
Steven Finacom
A crowd of hundreds assembled for the event.
Pool wading and picture taking was a popular activity.
Steven Finacom
Pool wading and picture taking was a popular activity.
Former Mayor Shirley Dean wore a hat that belonged to the aunt of her husband, Dan Dean, and had been worn at the 1911 dedication of the Fountain.
Steven Finacom
Former Mayor Shirley Dean wore a hat that belonged to the aunt of her husband, Dan Dean, and had been worn at the 1911 dedication of the Fountain.
John Aronovici from the Berkeley Historical Society shared Northbrae history with neighbors.
Steven Finacom
John Aronovici from the Berkeley Historical Society shared Northbrae history with neighbors.
Music, and relaxing on the grass, accompanied Centennial event.
Steven Finacom
Music, and relaxing on the grass, accompanied Centennial event.
Only a few attendees seemed bored by the festivities.
Steven Finacom
Only a few attendees seemed bored by the festivities.

The splendid and beloved bear cub fountain in the Circle on Berkeley’s Marin Avenue had a one-hundredth birthday celebration on Sunday, October 16, 2011.

More than 300 people crowded temporarily closed Mendocino Avenue and Los Angeles Avenue northwest of the busy traffic hub to congratulate volunteers, applaud the revived civic amenity, and raise funds for adjacent restoration. 

The physical fountain itself is the second on the site, a replica installed with a huge community re-dedication in 1996 at which civic and community representatives ceremonially christened the new fountain with ewers of water from various local sources—the Bay, Strawberry Creek, Codornices Creek—along with champagne. 

The Sunday event memorialized the one-hundredth anniversary of the original fountain installation and celebrated the community volunteers who keep the Circle clean and landscaped. It also featured an appeal for funds to help finish the restoration of the deteriorated balustrades that line Fountain Walk as it descends from the Circle to Henry Street at the mouth of the Solano Tunnel. 

“There is a bit of a back story about this celebration”, chief volunteer Sara Holmes told the crowd. She said Scott Dunlap who offered to donate icicle lights to decorate the Circle for the holidays had approached her. When they talked, he asked her what was being done to celebrate the Fountain centennial this year, and thus the event was born. 

Holmes said she had knocked on many neighborhood doors to publicize the Centennial and “I was really moved by how the community feels this fountain is theirs. I realize that you think it is your fountain, and I love that.” 

“I just want everyone to know that when I’m feeling a little blue and need a little lift, I always drive out of my way and drive around the Fountain,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “It’s just the most amazing civic project.”  

Wengraf read a City proclamation in honor of the Centennial, and various volunteers were acknowledged, as well as businesses that had donated refreshments.  

“I’m the lucky guy who gets to represent this district” on the City Council, said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. He rhapsodized about Northbrae, where he moved in 1972 (paying only $32,000 for his home, he confessed to the crowd). He listed the amenities of the neighborhood, including its library, public swimming pool, numerous parks and green spaces, specialty shopping districts, and “the wonderful architecture we get to look at”. 

“I think all the neighborhoods of Berkeley have great character and really do great things”, he added. 

Bill Anderson, representing the American Planning Association, spoke about how that organization had declared Northbrae one of the best neighborhoods in the country and said Berkeley was a leader in planning. “There are parts of the country right now where planning is being attacked”, he warned. 

Volunteers from Friends of the Fountain and Walk, the official non-profit group that was originally created to rebuild the Fountain, did a brisk business along the sidelines of the crowd selling commemorative items including photographs and note cards. Several historic displays were set up.  

The event speakers urged the crowd to donate to help support the balustrade restoration. Capitelli said that two individuals had pledged $500 gifts each, if the crowd would donate $1,000 that day. 

The original fountain was destroyed in the 1950s by a runaway vehicle and, for four decades, the Circle was empty of anything except some low landscaping.  

In the early 1990s, a major community effort initiated and led by neighbors (some of whose homes looked out on the Circle) including Linda Perry, Gail Keleman, Emmy Sorter, and Phil O’Hay, raised the funds to re-build the fountain. The three-year campaign collected over $100,000 for the project from more than 1,200 individuals. 

Architect Robert Ludlow designed the replica fountain, using early photographs and drawings. Artist Sarita Camille Waite sculpted replicas of the original Arthur Putnam bear cubs that still give the fountain both a classical and humorous character. 

For the Centennial, the cubs were bedecked with party hats and necklaces of gold stars.  

Although the current bear cubs are only 15, at least one authentic century-old artifact was present at the Centennial celebration. Atop the head of former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean was a flower-bedecked hat that had belonged to the aunt of her husband, Dan Dean. The hat was worn by the aunt at the 1911 dedication of the original fountain, and by Mayor Dean at the 1996 re-dedication. 

There were several other civic dignitaries at the occasion including Councilmember Linda Maio, former Councilmember Betty Olds, and city staff. 

The sky still glowered with gray overcast when the festivities started (in 1996 it had rained on the re-dedication), but by the time the ceremonies ended the late afternoon sun was out and sparkling through the water of the fountain. 

To celebrate the occasion, many of the event attendees braved traffic to cross to the lawn around the fountain and have their pictures taken there. Children splashed in the fountain water. Some locals observed that if you come back at night you might see dogs, raccoons, and the occasional skunk cavorting there as well. 

If you are looking for more information, or how to donate, the Friends of the Fountain and Walk website is here: 


It contains photographs, and descriptions of the 1996 dedication, as well as links to numerous articles about the Fountain and Circle. 

(Steven Finacom is the President of the Berkeley Historical Society and a frequent contributor to the Planet. He wrote a poem for the Fountain restoration and read it at the 1996 re-dedication.)

Add Your Opinion to the Downtown Berkeley Perceptions Survey

By Deborah Badhia, DBA
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 11:32:00 AM

The Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) is in the process of developing a Strategic Marketing Plan for Downtown Berkeley. This survey is part of the rollout of our Property-Based Business Improvement District (PBID) in 2012.

As part of that strategic marketing process, we are looking to get input from a broad range of Berkeleyans and Bay Area residents. We'd like to know why they come--or do not come--to Downtown Berkeley, and what kind of improvements they would like to see in the future.
We are looking to get responses this week, and no later than Monday, October 24th:

Remembering the Firestorm (First Person)

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 11:52:00 AM

I shall never forget October 19, 1991, the day of the Oakland Hills Firestorm. From my sixth floor window looking out on the east bay hills, I saw one house after the other go up in flames. At the same time, I could also watch this devastation on my television, a rather surrealistic touch. I stayed glued to my window most of that day. 

The fire started Saturday from a grass fire in the Berkeley Hills and raged for nearly 72 hours, killing 25 people, and injuring 150. The 1,520 acres destroyed included 3,354 single family dwellings 437 apartments and condominiums. The loss was estimated at $1.5 billion. As many as 400 engine companies and 1500 personnel worked to put out the fire. The firestorm threatened the historic Claremont Hotel, but was stopped before it reached the hotel. By Wednesday, October 23rd, the fire was declared under control, almost 72 hours after it started. At the fire's peak, it destroyed one home every 11 seconds and had spread to the nearby Parkwood Apartments, Hiller Highlands, Montclair and upper Rockridge. (Those hot, dry winds were dubbed "Diablo Winds.") 

Several of my friends were affected by the fire. One called me from Minden, Nevada, frantic to check on her family's handsome home on Claremont Boulevard. I was able to assure her that it was intact. Another friend, attending a Sunday matinee at the S.F. Opera House, was greeted by her son on a motorcycle, with the sad news that she probably had lost her home, a short distance from the Claremont Hotel. Happily her house was spared, but not those of neighbors and she found it heartbreaking to be the only survivor on her block. An elderly friend lost her home on upper Ocean Avenue and a Julie Morgan building was destroyed. My dentist, living in Hiller Highlands, saw his house demolished. And a U.C. professor on Alvarado Road suffered the loss of his home. 

Richard Misrach, a local photographer, has taken haunting images of the Oakland Firestorm. His photography exhibit, as shown on p. D1 of the October 13th Oakland Tribune, can be viewed at the U.C. Art Museum and the Oakland Museum through February. 

While it's inevitable that October brings with it hot, dry winds, I pray to the Almighty that we're spared the traumatic experience of another Fire Storm!

Fire This Morning at Berkeley Iceland: A Neighbor's Reaction

By Jane Stillwater
Monday October 17, 2011 - 04:41:00 PM

There were at least six fire trucks clustered outside of Berkeley's Iceland on Milvia Street at 6:00 am this morning. What caused the fire and how much damage did it do? I asked around. "The building itself is basically indestructible," commented one bystander who appeared to have insider knowledge regarding Iceland, "so no basic damage was done. However, some rubber mats were set on fire and so the smell of burning rubber has permeated the building." 

"Do you know what caused the fire?" I asked. 

"Sure there was some sort of homeless encampment inside and apparently one of the homeless got careless with matches." I was surprised. It seems like breaking into Iceland would be a daunting task. "Actually, it is," the bystander replied, "but somehow they manage to do it anyway. There have been homeless people living inside of Iceland for at least the last four and a half years." 

After the fire trucks had gone, I peeked into one of the graffiti-smeared front windows and saw immediately that the bystander had been right. There was garbage and junk strewn around everywhere. The place looked like it had been hit by a small tornado. 

Because I live just across the street from Iceland, at Savo Island Cooperative Homes, the thought of having Iceland continue to remain vacant indefinitely worries me very much because our own housing property, which is not made out of concrete like Iceland, is very vulnerable to fires. 

"Sports Basement is trying to get permits to build a store here," continued the bystander, "and I think they will be a good neighbor, and will offer lots of interesting classes to the community as well as just selling sports equipment." Plus I have heard that "Save Berkeley Iceland" is also trying to re-open the place as a skating rink. 

As a resident living in direct proximity to Iceland, however, frankly I don't care who opens it again or who takes it over. I just want it to stop being an empty hazardous eyesore.

Hikers Freed in Iran to Speak Tonight at Occupy Oakland

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Monday October 17, 2011 - 04:37:00 PM

The three University of California at Berkeley graduates who were imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges are expected to attend an "Occupy Oakland" rally this evening. 

Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal are expected to speak at 5 p.m. at the amphitheater on the north side of 14th Street just west of Broadway, where Occupy Oakland demonstrators have been holding general assemblies since last week in solidarity with New York's "Occupy Wall Street" protests. 

Shourd, 33, and Bauer and Fattal, both 29, were arrested on July 31, 2009, after embarking on a hike in Iraq's Kurdistan region near the Iranian border. Iran accused the trio of espionage but released Shourd in September 2010 because she was in poor health. 

Bauer and Fattal were sentenced in August to eight years in prison, but were released on Sept. 21 following negotiations spearheaded by Oman. 

According to the Occupy Oakland website, the three hikers will talk about the connections that can be drawn between what they went through in Iran and the situation in U.S. prisons, as well as the hunger strikes taking place in California prisons. 

The website states that this will be the first time the three will be speaking together publicly since their release. 

Across the Bay, protesters in San Francisco plan to take action today with a march that will start at 5 p.m. at Justin Herman Plaza. 

The group's website, www.occupysf.com, says the march is "for basic human rights." 

The site states, "With many basic human needs and rights not being met its (sic) time for the people to take back what is rightfully theirs." 

The march comes after a violent Sunday night in which San Francisco police fitted in riot gear arrested five protesters who had set up tents in Justin Herman Plaza. 

Police told the demonstrators that city laws prevented encampment there. When protesters refused to remove the tents, officers removed them and placed them into Department of Public Works trucks and vans. 

Four protesters were arrested for in the roadway illegally and resisting arrest, while the fifth was arrested for battery on a police officer, police said. 

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President and mayoral candidate David Chiu released a statement about the confrontation, saying "Both the Occupy SF protesters and the San Francisco Police Department need to redouble their efforts to avoid confrontations like the ones we saw last night." 

Chiu said, "As long as the Occupy SF protesters are obeying the law, the city should respect their rights of peaceful assembly and free speech." 

The anti-Wall Street protests that started in New York City in September have spread nationwide, with other Bay Area Occupy groups gathering in Berkeley, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Santa Rosa, San Rafael and other cities. 

The groups cite an economic disparity between the richest 1 percent of the population and the remaining 99 percent, and are calling for increased regulation of banks and Wall Street investment firms, among other changes.

Occupy Berkeley: The Video

By Paul Kealoha Blake
Sunday October 16, 2011 - 09:49:00 PM

Scenes from Saturday's march in downtown Berkeley: 

We Too. Berkeley Piles onto International $$$ Protests

By Ted Friedman
Saturday October 15, 2011 - 10:53:00 PM
John, a facilitator, gives rousing call to action Saturday before Occupy Berkeley marches to Civic Center Park
Ted Friedman
John, a facilitator, gives rousing call to action Saturday before Occupy Berkeley marches to Civic Center Park
Occupy Berkeley returns from Civic Center (Provo) Park to Bank of America Civic Plaza
Ted Friedman
Occupy Berkeley returns from Civic Center (Provo) Park to Bank of America Civic Plaza
Divinity students from Graduate Theological Union add a moral element to Saturday's Occupy Berkeley rally and march
Ted Friedman
Divinity students from Graduate Theological Union add a moral element to Saturday's Occupy Berkeley rally and march
Occupy Berkeley arrives in Provo Park facing Old City Hall. Overnight encampment will move from Bank of America Plaza to park to accomodate an anticipated swelling in the ranks as movement grows
Ted Friedman
Occupy Berkeley arrives in Provo Park facing Old City Hall. Overnight encampment will move from Bank of America Plaza to park to accomodate an anticipated swelling in the ranks as movement grows

Piling onto the international movement against alleged financial oppression proved irresistible to more than 200 Berkeleyans Saturday, as they joined fellow protesters from New Zealand, Alaska, London, Frankfurt, Washington, New York, and even timid Tokyo in an international day of rage against financial institutions.

Sometimes it's not all about Berkeley and this was a day for international solidarity. 

Chanting such slogans as, "life's a bitch, tax the rich," and (to onlookers and passing cars), "you are the ninety-nine percent," the group responded to a rallying speech by John, a facilitator, by marching to Martin Luther King Civic Center Park and back to Bank America Plaza on Shattuck. 

[This park is known to Berkeley old timers as Provo Park, informally re-named in the 1960s for “a Dutch counterculture movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait”, according to Wikipedia.] 

Police were as mellow as the protesters, who the night before had taken a vow of non-violence. No more than four police looked on, although several cops on bikes cruised the event. Keeping out of the streets and skirting the ongoing Berkeley Farmers’ Market, protesters went out of their way to keep it cool. 

Those who had encamped overnight in BA Civic Plaza plan to spend tonight in Provo Park. The move had been discussed last week at "general assembly" planning sessions. The last scheduled event of the day was a gathering across the street from the park, where a previously scheduled concert was taking place, on the steps of Old City Hall at 2:30. 

According to City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, District 7, the city wants to avoid a police crackdown in the park. The city relocated "previous users" of the park to make room for the protesters, according to Worthington. 

March peace monitors had attended a morning "training" by the National Lawyers Guild. 

First stop for Occupy movement movers was Chase, across the street from BA, and then they turned right on Allston to Milvia, where marchers passed the farmers’ market. 

Passing Provo Park across from Old City Hall before turning right on Milvia, marchers headed for University Avenue, as they chanted "whose streets, our streets," and "corporate greed has got to go." 

At University, the protesters chanted their way to Shattuck where they paused to condemn Citibank on their right, passed BA and re-circled their way back to the park via Allston where they briefly convened for more protesting. They re-convened at BA Plaza, returning on Center Street. The mood of the marchers was exuberant. 

Back at BA, the protesters convened their seventh general assembly in as many days—an exercise in consensus politics. Protesters new to Occupy Berkeley were trained in the protocols of a movement general assembly. 

Max Anderson, City Councilmber, District 3, spoke on the contributions of past Berkeley movements to the present one. Later, Anderson had a proposal for the new movement—"that the city move its investments from financial institutions like Chase, Citicorp, and BA to credit unions." 

John, a member of the facilitators’ committee (its members do not use their last names and want to keep the protest leaderless) had earlier acknowledged in his call to march such contributions, saying "let us revive the spirit that once radiated from the streets of Berkeley. A spirit of revolution, a spirit of change, a spirit of activism. 

A spirit that occupied this town and the minds of its citizens, and now has a chance to re-occupy this city." 

Kriss Worthington referred to the young radicals as a "new wave of activism." Acknowledging that Occupy is not just about youth and that grey-beards were also well represented, Worthington added that the movement was not age-based, managing to cover all bases. 

Although the day was devoted to international solidarity against "corporate greed," 

it proved once more that Berkeley has its own voice—a reinvigorated voice. 

We will soon post an inside-story wrap-up of a tumultuous week in the life of a new Berkeley movement. Click back to us for that. 



Ted Friedman has been temporarily re-assigned from South side to downtown, but keeps an eye on his beat. The latest tree-sit (the third) ended Friday at 12:30 p.m. when after several hours of of negotiations, a UCPD officer talked Littlebird out of the tree. More later.

New: Berkeley has Long term Chronic Problems with its Storm Drain System --and Lacks Funds to Fix Them

By Thomas Lord
Saturday October 15, 2011 - 08:48:00 AM

On October 25, the Berkeley City Council will meet in special session to receive the 2011 Watershed Management Plan from the Public Works Department. The full report is available on the City's web site in the agenda for the special session.

The always-evolving report is the city's comprehensive overview of the state of Berkeley's watershed. It explains that "The mission of the Watershed Management Plan (WMP) is to promote a healthier balance between the urban environment and the natural ecosystem, including the San Francisco Bay." The report aims to help guide city efforts to protect water quality, reduce urban flooding, preserve natural waterways and habitat, and re-use rainwater as a resource.

There is much to digest in the weighty report (100 pages plus another 86 pages of appendices). There is far too much to simply summarize here. Nevertheless, we found off the bat a few facts we think our readers will be glad know:

The city's storm drain pipe infrastructure comprises nearly "100 miles of buried pipelines, and their attendant appurtenances."

Much of that infrastructure is "over 80 years old and well past its useful life expectancy.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, the state issues conditional permits to cities that discharge stormwater into the San Francisco Bay. The conditions of Berkeley's Municipal Regional Stormwater permit (MRP) include requirements for new "trash capture" features - designed to prevent trash from reaching the bay - by 2014 (with requirements for further improvements expected subsequently). It is unclear where the money will come from for this, although Berkeley is initially participating in a $5 million dollar pilot study funded by the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This study will cover only a few test-case trash capture devices. The city's experience with these test devices will help determine which technology to commit to across the entire system. 

The MRP notwithstanding, the age of Berkeley's storm drains presents problems all its own. 

One example is the Potter Basin, a watershed that encompasses nearly everything south of University. 

The city's computational model predicts areas of "chronic nuisance flooding" in Potter Basin and these models accord well with experience. The model predicts problem spots already known to exist such as Fulton at Derby, College at Dwight, MLK between Russell and Woolsey, and San Pablo between Ward and Murray. 

The study notes: "Thus 10-year frequency storms in combination with high tides will cause flooding in the Potter watershed [as far upland as Woolsey near Adeline].

The estimated cost to upgrade the decrepit system while installing larger pipes is nearly 53 million dollars - and that's just for the Potter Basin, not all of Berkeley. 

Meanwhile, the Public Works Department's budget is being cut in the face of a projected deficit of $3M to $4M in 2012. 

Apparently the residents of Berkeley have got themselves a serious fixer-upper: lots of historic charm but skyrocketing expenses to keep it from falling apart. 

This piece also appears in The Berkeley Brief, a new print newsletter edited and distributed by the author.

Day 6: Will Saturday's Demo Put Berkeley 0n U.S. Map of Anti-Wall Street Protests?

By Ted Friedman
Friday October 14, 2011 - 01:20:00 PM
John Holzinger, 20, with mike, a facilitator, who later previewed his Saturday speech. "Sister" back to camera was facilitator for the meeting. "Urban strider" to right has been trying to get the occupiers to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples
Ted Friedman
John Holzinger, 20, with mike, a facilitator, who later previewed his Saturday speech. "Sister" back to camera was facilitator for the meeting. "Urban strider" to right has been trying to get the occupiers to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples
Newly appointed treasurer for Occupy Berkeley will secure donations-in-a-jar that are paying the protest's bills. No one has heard from the star hip-hopper who offered to pay for "everything." Perhaps the check is in the mail
Ted Friedman
Newly appointed treasurer for Occupy Berkeley will secure donations-in-a-jar that are paying the protest's bills. No one has heard from the star hip-hopper who offered to pay for "everything." Perhaps the check is in the mail

With anti-Wall Street protests in large cities hogging headlines, will the now tiny "Occupy Berkeley" action bolster Berkeley's radical image—or bury it—as the legendary revolution-to-come happens without a major role for Berkeley? 

After six days of planning meetings (general assemblies), committee and sub-committee meetings—all aiming for a rally and protest Saturday at noon at Bank of America Plaza downtown—Berkeley's role in the national anti-Wall Street movement may sink or swim. 

Channel 2, television, covered last night's planning meeting. Later, two appointees from Occupy Berkeley's communications committee appealed for the support of U.C. Berkeley students at 9:20 p.m. last night on student-run KALX (90.7 F.M.) immediately after the Cal-USC football game. This was a time-slot in which students would have tuned in to get the final score. 

In a genuine example of the participatory democracy for which Occupy Berkeley will be known, John Holzinger, 20, a demo "facilitator" read the "proclamation" he plans to deliver Saturday. He requested, and got, abundant feedback, including a one-minute "evaluation" from a member of Berkeley's Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters public speaking club. 

And still the route for a planned protest march which will depart from BA Plaza across from the downtown Bart station Saturday has not been finalized. At last night's general assembly (open planning meetings), a participant called out, "We're sick of Telegraph being trashed." 

Discussion last night focused on philosophies of non-violence, peace, and violence, and a proposal to enlist and deploy march monitors (to keep things peaceful) passed, along with an "agreement" that the march would be non-violent. 

"Don't assume police will be violent," a participant advised. 

Whether or not to apply for a march permit stalled when someone pointed out it was too late for that. Another commentator noted, "occupation requires no permit." 

A facilitator, Bo-Peter Laanen, 20, a Cal political science major, announced there would be a "training" with the National Lawyer's Guild to advise protesters before Saturday's march. 

Michael M., who remembers when Berkeleyans were freaks, and throughout six days of meetings has advocated incorporating Berkeley concerns into the Berkeley branch of the national anti-Wall Street movement, suggested that occupiers contact city councilmembers. But a responder said that politicians should be excluded because they would only co-opt the occupation. 

Elizabeth, one of the overnight occupiers at the BA Plaza, reporting from the food committee which is being funded by donations-in-a-bottle on site, said that the bagel's cream cheese and lox from Noah's (discount to the protest) were so good that demonstrators might want to come for the food. 

Early rains forced the general assembly under a tarp two days ago, impinging on an encampment of homeless Berkeleyans, but as spring weather returned and the assembly moved towards the sidewalk, some of the homeless have returned. 

One of the homeless on-lookers, Rene Daugherty, offered this advice to the nascent movement. "Protest is not about getting people to agree, but about getting your ideas across." 

Daugherty attributed this advice to his "friend," Huey P. Newton. 


Ted Friedman has been reassigned to the downtown protest, but is keeping an eye on his South side beat.

Occupy Richmond Launched

By Laura Dixon (BCN)
Friday October 14, 2011 - 11:02:00 AM

The now nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement that has sprung up throughout the Bay Area in recent weeks kicked off in Richmond yesterday afternoon, with the support of city leaders and police.  

About six dozen people gathered in Downtown Richmond late yesterday afternoon to take part in a peaceful, Occupy Wall Street-inspired demonstration, holding signs, chanting and sharing personal stories about the effect corporate America has had on their lives. 

Occupy Richmond organizer Bryan Drayton, owner of nonprofit bicycle organization Richmond Spokes, said today's rally in downtown Richmond -- which could last through Saturday if attendees decide to camp out -- is meant to give Richmond residents a platform to vent their frustrations and discuss constructive plans for the community. 

From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., about a dozen local residents, including self-described activists and one city council member, took turns at the microphone to voice their grievances against corporate America and the effect it has had on their lives -- from facing foreclosure and mountains of student loan debt to unemployment. 

"Sallie Mae is a gold digger...she's taking all our money, she's keeping us enslaved...and I'm fed up with that," said Jessica Tovar, a Richmond resident who works with a local nonprofit, Communities for a Better Environment.  

Many of those who spoke at the event targeted Chevron, whose corporate offices are located in Richmond.  

"That money doesn't go to the city of Richmond...it's not going to our schools," Tovar said. 

Several people in the crowd, including Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, nodded their heads in agreement as Tovar spoke. 

Beckles also addressed the crowd of demonstrators, and said she was proud of the local event and hopes for an even larger turnout at any future Occupy Richmond rallies. 

"In a community like this that is predominantly black and Latino, we should have more people here," she said. 

Drayton said that he and several other local residents decided to plan the event at the last minute while attending an Occupy Oakland event earlier this week. 

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also voiced her support for the rally and for the entire Occupy Wall Street movement. 

"It's something we have been promoting in Richmond for a long time," she said. "We've been working to stand against corporate domination, which is why myself and a couple other council members won our elections without taking one penny of corporate donations." 

Richmond police officers were also supportive of the rally, and escorted the group of about three dozen attendees who marched about 15 blocks from 11th Street to Richmond's Civic Center. 

Capt. Mark Gagan said officers monitored the rally to "make sure (attendees) have the ability to assemble peacefully," and would allow participants to camp on city property during the event.



Occupying Berkeley and Oakland on a Fine Saturday in October

By Becky O'Malley
Sunday October 16, 2011 - 08:16:00 PM

Both Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland for generations have celebrated what’s called “the marching season”, a time of the year beginning around Easter when various groups stage parades to commemorate dates and causes that they consider significant. Here in the United States, October has often been our “marching season”—some of the best protests decrying the first (or was it the second?) Gulf War were in October, as I recall.

This year is no exception. Yesterday’s various Occupy events in Berkeley and the rest of the East Bay, though serious in purpose, had an almost festive air consistent with the fine weather and earnest camaraderie of the participants. If you kept moving, it was possible to enjoy a good cross section of the available color at various locales. 

Occupy Berkeley had been grouping and re-grouping with ever-changing times and locales for almost a week. Checking in at the plaza in front of the downtown Bank of America at noon, the time and place announced on at least one Internet venue, we discovered that one contingent was already on the move, but about a hundred people were still there listening to speakers with a variety of axes to grind. Spotted in the crowd were one Berkeley City Councilmember (the ever vigilant Kriss Worthington), two former Daily Planet reporters hung with cameras, one former law school classmate who said she was just back from the 50th anniversary celebration of either SNCC or the Freedom Riders or both, and a good assortment of fresh-faced young folk who looked like they were students.  

Noteworthy: most of the young were of European descent, even though close to half of the UC Berkeley student body could be considered Asian or Asian-American. I saw no young African-Americans, though a few of their elders were there, including reportedly Berkeley Councilmember Max Anderson. (I missed him.) 

A posted sign announced that there would be a rally of some sort in Civic Center Park at 2:30, so I ducked out for a bit to have coffee with a friend at the Farmer’s Market next to the park. We’ve been to a variety of events like these over the years, most notably going to D.C. in a vicious sleet storm to protest G.W. Bush’s theft of his first “election”—fat lot of good that did. But we were game to keep up the effort by joining the next event, though the title of Phil Ochs’ song (I Ain’t Marching Any More) lingers in memory. 

And thanks to modern modes of transport I even made it to Oakland by 3:30, just in time to hear Danny Glover working the crowd up to a fine frenzy. It was an odd assortment of edgy youth and grizzled age, obviously happy to be there together on such a fine day. The Occupy contingent, who had been there for a couple of days, were joined by Danny and assorted politicians, union leaders and their troops who walked over from a long-planned “Jobs not Cuts” rally at Laney College which was coincidentally timed to back Obama’s American Jobs Act.  

It was a pretty big crowd, probably in the thousands, as well as I could tell from my vantage point at the northwest side of what is now called Ogawa Plaza, a concrete amphitheatre which replaces the green triangle which used to be in front of the Oakland City Hall. Like many jolly Oakland events, the mix here was thoroughly, emphatically and enthusiastically multi-racial and multi-ethnic. 

The first person I knew that I ran into was the other friend with whom I went to the Bush inaugural fiasco—talk about addictive personalities, all three of us. Several others there I recognized as Berkeleyans who have not yet joined any of the Occupy Berkeley events—people who tend to self-identify more with Democratic Party power brokers than with the raggle-taggle band who have been the most persistent participants in the Occupy arena.  

I spotted a woman rumored to have once been a member of Line of March, an Oakland based Maoist organization founded in 1970, chumming up with a now-rightish Berkeley Democratic politician. Fashions come and go, but the avant-garde remains the same. 

As I was leaving I came across an old acquaintance, a union organizer and for a long time a stalwart of the old left, though of late a leader of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club instead. He said he’d been putting together the union rally for at least six weeks, but had been working especially hard in the last couple of days reconciling the two strains which came together that day at Ogawa Plaza.  

“Oh, so you were representing The Establishment this time?” I teased.  

“You have to get the right dialectic between spontaneity and structure,” he said, only half joking. He said that he’d spent a long time in the encampment the night before, and “when you’re dealing with a group of anarchists it’s easy for a few Trots to take over.” 

Note for younger readers: that would be Trotskyists, though what that epithet means in the modern context is not easy to decipher. Per Wikipedia, Trotsky’s “politics differed sharply from those of Stalinism, most prominently in opposing Socialism in One Country, which he argued was a break with proletarian internationalism, and in his belief in what he argued was a more authentic dictatorship of the proletariat based on working-class self-emancipation and mass democracy, rather than the unaccountable bureaucracy he saw as having developed after Lenin's death.” 

Hmm, yes. Well, we came back in the evening to check out an enthusiastic report from a center-left-leaning friend about the excellent organization and spirit which she saw when she visited the camp that afternoon.  

We got there just in time to observe the nightly meeting—not sure if it was a “General Assembly” or just notes to inhabitants. This nascent revolution, everywhere, is currently more about process than about product, but the Oakland process wasn’t as elegantly choreographed as its Berkeley or Wall Street counterparts. There were no Trotskyist leanings, in fact no leanings of any kind, in evidence. 

In Oakland there was a real loudspeaker instead of the call-and-response substitute made famous by Occupy Wall Street and imitated to indifferent effect in Berkeley. It echoed back from the concrete bleachers, and anyone who had anything to say lined up and waited for a turn at the mike. Most of what we heard in three-quarters of an hour was announcements: a lot about conflict resolution, food, medical aid and the like.  

There was only one “proposal” on the agenda for discussion—from the DJs who were planning to put on a big dance party for the inhabitants that evening. They wanted the quiet hour deadline, normally midnight, to be pushed out to 2 a.m. in honor of the party. 

A few half-hearted speakers spoke pro and con. Straw votes based on a show of hands were requested, though they were hard to count in the dark. Finally the woman who’d held the microphone for most of the time we were there announced that the proposal had failed because it didn’t get 90% support, which seemed to be that night’s version of consensus, notably hard to achieve.  

There were no other proposals made before we left. A request for adoption of a list of demands never made it to the agenda, but was scheduled for a committee meeting on Sunday. 

The camp last night, coupled with today’s reports of the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial, reminded me of Resurrection City, an encampment of poor people and friends set up in D.C. in May of 1968, an outgrowth of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign for an Economic Bill of Rights for the nation’s poor, which he was working on when he was assassinated. That one lasted for not much more than a month before it was shut down by the authorities. The Economic Bill of Rights was never passed. 

Some press reports say that 1400 cities around the world took up the Occupy banner over the weekend, so maybe this time the outcome will be different. Or perhaps, though the parties might be better, the consequences will be the same. We’ll have to wait and see. Poor people all over the world are in a lot more trouble than they were in 1968, a year when we thought there was plenty of trouble to go around.  

The Editor's Back Fence

New: Hancock Sponsors "Gut-and-Amend" Bills in Sacramento

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday October 19, 2011 - 08:39:00 AM

A reader has forwarded a disturbing article by Lauren Rosenhall in Monday's Sacramento Bee, which implicates Berkeley Senator Loni Hancock in the disreputable practice of "gut-and-amend", which allows bills to be passed in Sacramento with essentially no public process. Here's the top of the story:

"It was after midnight on the last day of the legislative session last month when the state Senate took up a controversial bill concerning election laws for the very first time.
Most bills go through a months-long process of hearings, negotiations, amendments and votes. Not this one.

Senate Bill 202 was written about 24 hours earlier, when Democrat Loni Hancock of Berkeley deleted the language in a bill about filing fees on voter initiatives and replaced it with a highly political proposal to change the state's election laws in ways that will favor Democrats in 2012.

'The lack of process in this bill is inexcusable,' Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance told his colleagues that night. 'We as Democrats should be ashamed at how this came to the Senate floor.'

Hancock's bill was the most extreme example this year of the Legislature's penchant for writing new laws at the last minute – but it was by no means the only one." 

Read more


Cartoon Page: BOUNCE:

By Joseph Young
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 12:17:00 PM


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins: The Answer

Dan O'Neill
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 11:43:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Letter: Arreguin and Worthington Submit Agenda Item re Council Move to West Campus

From Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 03:46:00 PM

I just read Steve Finacom's article [about plans to move the City Council meetings to West Campus] on the Planet website and I wanted to let you know about an item that [Councilmember] Kriss [Worthington] and I have submitted an item for an upcoming Council agenda about moving Council meetings to West Campus. In response to the fact that discussions have occurred between City staff and the School District on relocating our Council meetings from Old City Hall to a new Council Chambers at West Campus, and given the lack of information, and public discussion, Kriss and I have submitted the item for the November 8th Council agenda, asking the City Manager to provide a report on the West Campus plans, alternatives to West Campus, and discussion about what will happen with Old City Hall. The item asks that the report come back to the Council in no less than 60 days and that it be calendared for discussion. 

We are trying to get more information about the idea of moving to West Campus and closing Old City Hall, and have a public discussion about the issue, which has been largely absent so far. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday October 19, 2011 - 01:12:00 PM

Jobs is a Four Letter Word;Republican Primaries;Socialism in One City;Make it fair; Children Need Love 

Jobs is a Four Letter Word 

Everyone needs a job, no one disputes that in this crumbling society. A person needs work to support body and soul in order to feel worthwhile but very often the constant din of "jobs, jobs, jobs" begins to feel like a excuse to throw every other concern out the window. If a candidate for president says we need to drill for oil and mine for coal and frack for natural gas no matter the environmental cost because we must create jobs and energy then he sounds very reasonable to some people. Advocating drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico with the recent calamity hardly behind us or fracking for gas despite the risk to the aquifers, stops creative alternative ideas from percolating to the top. Old solutions block new solutions from being pursued. 

One little problem with a green solar energy plant causes every one to throw up their hands and say, "See, we told you it wouldn't work," even though the dirty industries have problems all the time. This country needs some imagination to make the invisible visible. While Herman Cain chants 9-9-9 the rest chant jobs-jobs-jobs. What happened to American ingenuity? 

Constance Wiggins 

* * * * * * * 

Republican Primaries 

Is Rick Perry the inevitable GOP presidential nominee? Who decides the outcome in the early primaries of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina who the Republican nominee will be? Evangelical, fundamentalist and Tea Party white religious social conservatives. Essentially Rick Perry's base. So, don't write off Rick Perry too soon. The Texas candidate is doing the two-step, singing the fundamentalist anthem of the Tea Party and that's got to help. Rick Perry is scary. He's far to the right, ultra-extreme on a woman's freedom of choice, scoffs at the separation of church and state, derides climate change as a hoax, calls evolution an unproven theory (ask your third grader what they think about this), and sees Social Security as a failure, wanting to end or privatize the program. President Rick Perry, What a nightmare. 

Ron Lowe 

* * * * * * * 

Socialism in One City 

I was pleased to read your account of the Marin Circle Fountain. That our former mayor brought out that really excellent hat - the one present at the dedication of the original fountain in 1911 - gives me a notion: Perhaps we can next restore another feature from 1911 -- a socialist mayor. 

Tom Lord 

* * * * * * * 

Make it fair 

Lady with a sign sayen, “Hey C.E.O. sell your watch & buy my kids some socks”! 

Police are using mace and clubs, as the 1% sip their drinks, the mommies on the night shift miss their babies, I think were on the brink 

Our neighbor’s homes get foreclosed and the numbers living out of shopping carts grow 

The 1% don’t realize the time is coming when they’re gonna reap just what they sowed 

The libraries are closing and the teachers are laid off, 

the nurses on the picket line are trying not to curse. 

The “bag lady” on the corner expresses her despair, 

while a boy at the occupation holds a sign that says simply, “make it fair”. 


Neil Doherty 

* * * * * * * 

Children Need Love 

All children need love. Especially when adults around them are staggering from a broken economy children need assurance they are being cared for. Do we ever understand why so many young people take drugs? Probably during their growing and developing years we as parents or as a society were unable to give them adequate love and security. I think there is a strong correlation between their addictions and the love missing in their lives 

Many young children today don't feel that they can go home or to their school staff and pour out their bagged emotions fearlessly, without dreading the consequences of sharing their innermost thoughts. They don't feel that there is someone waiting to greet them at home or anywhere else in the community. They don’t have access to someone who has time to ask them about their day or about their feelings. 

We think children don't know how stressful it is for the adults around them. But, of course, they notice the remorseful or frightened looks on the faces of their parents or neighbors. But, of course, they catch bits and pieces of troubling news on TV. If they happen to find somebody who will give them attention, they open up and don’t want to stop pouring out their feelings. 

What can we do to offer children hope? Where shall we find the resources to assure them that they matter greatly to our future? That, in fact, they are our future. 

Romila Khanna

A Framing Memo for Occupy Wall Street

By George Lakoff, Reader Supported News
Wednesday October 19, 2011 - 01:11:00 PM

I was asked weeks ago by some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to make suggestions for how to frame the movement. I have hesitated so far, because I think the movement should be framing itself. It's a general principle: Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you - the media, your enemies, your competitors, your well-meaning friends. I have so far hesitated to offer suggestions. But the movement appears to maturing and entering a critical time when small framing errors could have large negative consequences. So I thought it might be helpful to accept the invitation and start a discussion of how the movement might think about framing itself. 

About framing: It's normal. Everybody engages in it all the time. Frames are just structures of thought that we use every day. All words in all languages are defined in terms of frame-circuits in the brain. But, ultimately, framing is about ideas, about how we see the world, which determines how we act. 

In politics, frames are part of competing moral systems that are used in political discourse and in charting political action. In short, framing is a moral enterprise: it says what the character of a movement is. All politics is moral. Political figures and movements always make policy recommendations claiming they are the right things to do. No political figure ever says, do what I say because it's wrong! Or because it doesn't matter! Some moral principles or other lie behind every political policy agenda. 

Two Moral Framing Systems in Politics 

Conservatives have figured out their moral basis and you see it on Wall Street: It includes: The primacy of self-interest. Individual responsibility, but not social responsibility. Hierarchical authority based on wealth or other forms of power. A moral hierarchy of who is "deserving," defined by success. And the highest principle is the primacy of this moral system itself, which goes beyond Wall Street and the economy to other arenas: family life, social life, religion, foreign policy, and especially government. Conservative "democracy" is seen as a system of governance and elections that fits this model. 

Though OWS concerns go well beyond financial issues, your target is right: the application of these principles in Wall Street is central, since that is where the money comes from for elections, for media, and for right-wing policy-making institutions of all sorts on all issues. 

The alternative view of democracy is progressive: Democracy starts with citizens caring about one another and acting responsibly on that sense of care, taking responsibility both for oneself and for one's family, community, country, people in general, and the planet. The role of government is to protect and empower all citizens equally via The Public: public infrastructure, laws and enforcement, health, education, scientific research, protection, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, and on and on. Nobody makes it one their own. If you got wealthy, you depended on The Public, and you have a responsibility to contribute significantly to The Public so that others can benefit in the future. Moreover, the wealthy depend on those who work, and who deserve a fair return for their contribution to our national life. Corporations exist to make life better for most people. Their reason for existing is as public as it is private. 

A disproportionate distribution of wealth robs most citizens of access to the resources controlled by the wealthy. Immense wealth is a thief. It takes resources from the rest of the population - the best places to live, the best food, the best educations, the best health facilities, access to the best in nature and culture, the best professionals, and on and on. Resources are limited, and great wealth greatly limits access to resources for most people. 

It appears to me that OWS has a progressive moral vision and view of democracy, and that what it is protesting is the disastrous effects that have come from operating with a conservative moral, economic, and political worldview. I see OWS as primarily a moral movement, seeking economic and political changes to carry out that moral movement - whatever those particular changes might be. 

A Moral Focus for Occupy Wall Street 

I think it is a good thing that the occupation movement is not making specific policy demands. If it did, the movement would become about those demands. If the demands were not met, the movement would be seen as having failed. 

It seems to me that the OWS movement is moral in nature, that occupiers want the country to change its moral focus. It is easy to find useful policies; hundreds have been suggested. It is harder to find a moral focus and stick to it. If the movement is to frame itself, it should be on the basis of its moral focus, not a particular agenda or list of policy demands. If the moral focus of America changes, new people will be elected and the policies will follow. Without a change of moral focus, the conservative worldview that has brought us to the present disastrous and dangerous moment will continue to prevail. 

We Love America. We're Here to Fix It 

I see OWS as a patriotic movement, based on a deep and abiding love of country - a patriotism that it is not just about the self-interests of individuals, but about what the country is and is to be. Do Americans care about other citizens, or mainly just about themselves? That's what love of America is about. I therefore think it is important to be positive, to be clear about loving America, seeing it in need of fixing, and not just being willing to fix it, but being willing to take to the streets to fix it. A populist movement starts with the people seeing that they are all in the same boat and being ready to come together to fix the leaks. 

Publicize the Public 

Tell the truth about The Public, that nobody makes it purely on their own without The Public, that is, without public infrastructure, the justice system, health, education, scientific research, protections of all sorts, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, … That is a truth to be told day after day. It is an idea that must take hold in public discourse. It must go beyond what I and others have written about it and beyond what Elizabeth Warren has said in her famous video. The Public is not opposed to The Private. The Public is what makes The Private possible. And it is what makes freedom possible. Wall Street exists only through public support. It has a moral obligation to direct itself to public needs. 

All OWS approaches to policy follow from such a moral focus. Here are a handful of examples. 

Democracy should be about the 99% 

Money directs our politics. In a democracy, that must end. We need publicly supported elections, however that is to be arranged. 

Strong Wages Make a Strong America 

Middle-class wages have not gone up significantly in 30 years, and there is conservative pressure to lower them. But when most people get more money, they spend it and spur the economy, making the economy and the country stronger, as well as making their individual lives better. This truth needs to be central to public economic discourse. 

Global Citizenship 

America has been a moral beacon to the world. It can function as such only if it sets an example of what a nation should be. 

Do we have to spend more on the military that all other nations combined? Do we really need hundreds of military bases abroad? 


We are part of nature. Nature makes us, and all that we love, possible. Yet we are destroying Nature through global warming and other forms of ecological destruction, like fracking and deep-water drilling. 

At a global scale, nature is systemic: its effects are neither local nor linear. Global warming is causing the ferocity of the monster storms, tornados, floods, blizzards, heat waves, and fires that have devastated huge areas of our country. The hotter the atmosphere, the more evaporated water and the more energy going into storms, tornados, and blizzards. Global warming cannot be shown to cause any particular storm, but when a storm system forms, global warming will ramp up the power of the storm and the amount of water it carries. In winter, evaporated water from the overly heated Pacific will go into the atmosphere, blow northeast over the arctic, and fall as record snows. 

We depend on nature - on clean air, water, food, and a livable climate. And we find beauty and grandeur in nature, and a sense of awe that makes life worth living. A love of country requires a love of nature. And a fair and thriving economy requires the preservation of nature as we have known it. 


OWS is a moral and patriotic movement. It sees Democracy as flowing from citizens caring about one another as well as themselves, and acting with both personal and social responsibility. Democratic governance is about The Public, and the liberty that The Public provides for a thriving Private Sphere. From such a democracy flows fairness, which is incompatible with a hugely disproportionate distribution of wealth. And from the sense of care implicit in such a democracy flows a commitment to the preservation of nature. 

From what I have seen of most members of OWS, your individual concerns all flow from one moral focus. 


The Tea Party solidified the power of the conservative worldview via elections. OWS will have no long-term effect unless it too brings its moral focus to the 2012 elections. Insist on supporting candidates that have your overall moral views, no matter what the local issues are. 

A Warning 

This movement could be destroyed by negativity, by calls for revenge, by chaos, or by having nothing positive to say. Be positive about all things and state the moral basis of all suggestions. Positive and moral in calling for debt relief. Positive and moral in upholding laws, as they apply to finances. Positive and moral in calling for fairness in acquiring needed revenue. Positive and moral in calling for clean elections. To be effective, your movement must be seen by all of the 99% as positive and moral. To get positive press, you must stress the positive and the moral. 

Remember: The Tea Party sees itself as stressing only individual responsibility. The Occupation Movement is stressing both individual and social responsibility. 

I believe, and I think you believe, that most Americans care about their fellow citizens as well as themselves. Let's find out! Shout your moral and patriotic views out loud, regularly. Put them on your signs. Repeat them to the media. Tweet them. And tell everyone you know to do the same. You have to use your own language with your own framing and you have to repeat it over and over for the ideas to sink in. 

Occupy elections: voter registration drives, town hall meetings, talk radio airtime, party organizations, nomination campaigns, election campaigns, and voting booths. 

Above all: Frame yourselves before others frame you. 

Berkeleyan George Lakoff is the author of "Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant!," "Whose Freedom?," and "Thinking Points" (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

Resurrect Berkeley's Rink

By Wendy Schlesinger, MJ, CIP
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 11:08:00 AM

The historical reality is that Iceland embodied, and can embody again, all that is truly great in Berkeley the town and Berkeley the gown. Not only did my son and I and thousands of other people of all ages and relationships and background have a wonderful time skating there to the music, with the Friday night disco lights or the Christmas lights, not only did so many of us have memorable birthday parties for our children there, but it was also a womblike place (kind of like the design for the new Apple headquarters) that held diversity in place with utter peace and good vibes. By the way, the nonpareil skate guards contributed, too, to the good vibes. 

I cannot figure out why the city of Berkeley and UC Berkeley (whose students curled on the ice late at night, and who had a recreational ice hockey team) has not yet thrown in a couple of million dollars...or six million dollars...to resurrect the rink. 

Going to downtown Oakland to ice skate is simply not possible for many, due to a complex set of reasons, not the least being a lack of parking. There is a ig enough group of skaters around here and to the north to pay to skate at Berkeley Iceland. 

To have a sporting goods store there (with or without classes) is to admit defeat --- an egalitarian vision of inexpensive, kinetic fun for all (and a marvel for toned thighs and prevention of childhood obesity) is replaced with another consumer fest for only those with disposable income. 

And the rest of us? Are we to be disposed? Is it just market forces preventing a return to good old fashioned, clean fun in Berkeley? How crass; what a shame, what a pity. But don't mourn...organize and make a donation to the nonprofit Save Berkeley Iceland (just Google it and see how to give). And tell your Berkeley City Council to bring back Iceland as a skating rink, and UC alum: Call Community Relations, the Athletic Director, Public Affairs, and tell all of them to endow the ice rink and breathe the kind of breath back into it that we can tangibly feel and see.

Press Release: March and Rally for "Jobs Not Cuts" in Oakland Today

From the Wellstone Democratic Club
Saturday October 15, 2011 - 11:17:00 AM

October 15, 2011
Jobs Not Cuts
Work Not War
Saturday, October 15th
March and Rally
Gather at Laney College at 1PM
Lake Merritt BART
Join the rebellion of the 99% to force the 1% to do their part in supporting the common good. It's time. Let's all march together.
Join With:
Danny Glover
Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland
Tom Bates, Mayor of Berkeley
Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond
Josie Camacho, Alameda Labor Council
Support the Contract to Rebuild the American Dream:
Meet at Laney College at 1PM (Lake Merritt BART)
March to
Frank Ogawa Plaza (12th St. BART)
for a short rally with compelling speakers
this is a BART to BART march
cosponsored by: Alameda and San Francisco Labor Councils, MoveON,Oakland Rising,Global Exchange,Peace Action West, Oakland Education Association, Code Pink, New Priorities Campaign, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, US Labor Against the War, Sierra Club - East Bay, among many others
for more information:
Please volunteer to be a monitor or help with the tasks of the march and rally. Please arrive at Laney College by 11:30AM


My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 04:29:00 PM

For the memory of another is like a ship which one sees coming down a bay—the hull and the sails separating from the distance and from the outlying islands and capes—charged with freight and cutting open the waves, addressing itself in increasingly clear outlines to the impatient eyes on the waterfront; which, before it reaches the shore, grows ghostly and sinks in the sea; and one has to wait for the tides to cast on the beach, fragment by fragment, the awaited cargo.

—Glenway Wescott, novelist (1901-1987), from The Grandmothers 

I copied this passage about a decade after the death of someone very dear to me, when I was more and more saddened, not only by my original loss, but by the drifting away, falling away, of huge chunks of memory of him—words, images—reminders that I had been able to call up and dwell in for a few minutes, gaining a certain sad comfort. 

People speak of grief as if it has a certain “allotted” time, a “pull date” after which one “moves on.” Anyone who buys this has not yet suffered the death of someone close, even someone—and this is sometimes worse—with whom they were in constant conflict. 

Anyone who has experienced such a loss knows that this grief does not gradually evaporate. It changes, sinks, breaks up—the tides of life occasionally flinging up a piece that hits you when you least expect it. You never mention the pain of such blows, of course. Those who mean to comfort you, expect you—sometimes, it seems—require that you reward their attention by pretending that you have “moved on.” 










(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)

Senior Power… “Always my best day of the week.” Part 1.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 12:01:00 PM

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), famous for his Democracy in America, wrote about Americans, “I have often admired the extreme skill they show in proposing a common object for the exertions of very many and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.”

The traditions of community service and citizen participation have long been at the heart of American civic culture, through town meetings, local school systems, political parties, hospital auxiliaries, and national and local organizations. Many Americans act on the need to give something back to their communities. There’s a good feeling that can come from commitment to an unpaid responsibility that impacts others positively. Some activities that are considered voluntary provide compensation or remuneration in kind.  

Volunteering is the practice of people working in behalf of others or a cause without payment for their time and services. It is usually considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve quality of life. People also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and a variety of other reasons that might be considered self-serving. One’s skills and time enter into the give and get back equation. Volunteerism is the reliance on volunteers to perform social or educational work in communities, to maintain an institution, carry out a policy, or achieve an end. 

Work placement programs cannot handle the influx of elderly retirees seeking jobs. Now, more than ever, volunteers are needed. How come most senior citizen-volunteers are women? That’s easy – most people over the age of – say, sixty – are women. O K, so how come most men age 60+ do not volunteer in the same numbers? A cautionary tale applies to some older adults in some senior housing projects and senior centers. Beware role assignment by the would-be social worker who judges and screens [out] applicants. 

There’s a special-interest subpopulation of grandparents who are parenting again. But are they volunteers? Heard about Rent-A-Grandma, profiled in Entrepreneur Magazine? National Public Radio (NPR) reported “a new employment agency is recruiting women of a certain age for a job many working families desperately need to fill: someone to care for their children.” One listener responded that he doesn’t “think that this is an entirely bad idea. We have many older people, men and women who are unemployed and because of their age might not be employed again before their retirement age. At the same time, we have loads of people who have to work and need child care which is very expensive. Maybe it is a win-win for some?”  

The Berkeley Information Network -- the Berkeley Public Library’s BIN -- is a good place to start a search for almost anything anywhere. Go online. Keyword. The Library’s own application form for prospective volunteers is available online.  

Whether you are “an agency” or a prospective volunteer, check out the Volunteer Center of the East Bay.  


Senior citizens often volunteer their services in hospitals, senior centers and schools. 

Hospital volunteers typically work without regular pay in a variety of health care settings, usually under supervision of an employee. Hospitals often train and supervise volunteers through a non-profit auxiliary.  

Volunteers' services are important to the American health care system. Some people volunteer during high school or college, either out of curiosity about health-care occupations and professions or in order to satisfy community service requirements of some schools and courts. Others volunteer at later stages in their lives, particularly after retirement. The “candy striper” nickname derived from cutsey outfits worn by cutsey volunteers. The name and uniform are now less frequently used. Miss Cutsey has pretty much been replaced by Ms Older Woman in a smock. 

Recently, when I picked up a friend from day surgery, I noted not-young people staffing the hospital front desk. And when some fabulous fire fighter-paramedics brought me to the Alta Bates Hospital Emergency Department and we waited in the cold narthex, I heard a "mature" male voice say "I am a volunteer. I'll get you something to keep you warm." I wanted to interview someone like him for a Senior Power column about volunteers! 

Apparently my guy was an “ER Customer Service Liaison.” The Hospital’s Volunteer website provides an Adult Volunteer Application form that offers skills choices: accounting, computer data entry, foreign languages, training. Bottom line, the Public Relations Regional Manager was enthusiastic about my interest in interviewing senior citizens as volunteers in a hospital setting. But she insists on being present at all interviews. Mine are all one-on-one, and each subject is then provided with a pre-publication draft. 


Senior centers provide a perfect example of opportunity to volunteer in behalf of the good life for fellow senior citizens. Many retired seniors have training, bilingualism, or experience in areas that community senior centers need, e.g. education, medicine, management, technology, advocating. The welcoming greetings of senior citizens who are front desk volunteers and telephone responders are strategic to implementing the goals of many senior centers.  

Volunteers who deliver Meals on Wheels to the homebound additionally save the expense of paid drivers’ salaries. In these times, most salaried senior center-staffing is unjustified; turning off senior citizens who volunteer is inexcusable. A Berkeley senior center - Aging Services - Meals on Wheels application form titled “Volunteer Registration” is available online.  

Visit online or in person senior centers whose events are listed in the Mark Your Calendar section.  

I was interested in interviewing a senior center volunteer. A North Berkeley Senior Center gent turned me down (“… do not want to do anything that may cause a problem”); likewise, the director wouldn’t respond to my request for an interview location!  


Schools rely heavily on donations and on volunteer parents, grandparents and community members. In next week’s column Part Two, meet a Berkeley schools volunteer who explains why his weekly day in a unique elementary school is “Always my best day of the week.” 



Senior citizens also volunteer nationally and internationally, e.g.  


U.S. federal government program created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, later expanded under President George W. Bush. The work done by these groups ranges from public education to environmental clean-up. 

Experience Corps www.experiencecorps.org/

Americans older than 55 years tutor and mentor children in urban public schools across the country. San Francisco and Marin.  

Meals on Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) www.mowaa.org/ 

Provides home-delivered meals services to people in need. On October 3, 2011 Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee announced the award of $315,667 to the Meals on Wheels Association of America to establish a new National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging. 

Peace Corps 

An American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name, in which Bessie ‘Miz Lillian’ Gordy Carter (18981983), mother of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, was also known as a Peace Corps volunteer in India.  

Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima 

The Japanese government is promoting “purpose of life” for independent elders through senior citizens’ clubs and participation in volunteer organizations. Seventy-two year old Yasuteru Yamada decided it would be better to send men and women who have finished raising families, rather than younger workers whose lives could be cut short by extreme radiation exposure, to Fukushima. The Corps consists of 500+ seniors like grandmother Kazuko Sasaki.  


This is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect, best known for its public Web service available at www.volunteermatch.org. The organization works with clients in technology, manufacturing, packaged goods, financial services, and others industries. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Call to confirm, date, time and place. Readers are welcome to share news of events that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com 


Sunday, Oct.23. 2-3 P.M. The Albany Library (Community Center Hall, 1237 Marin Av.) presents Laurie King, author of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. 510-526-3720. 

Mondays, Oct. 24, 26 and 31. 10A.M. – 12 Noon. Oliver Guinn, PhD Economics, returns to teach “Our Damaged Economy: The Financial Meltdown and Economic Inequality.” Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Oct. 25. 1 P.M. AC Transit and YOU! Representatives from United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County will inform about the Regional Transit Connection (RTC) Discount Card Program, Clipper Card, route changes, and the 10-year AC Transit Fare Policy. Refreshments. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, Oct. 25. 3 - 4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Tony Lin, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 1 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers meets at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-548-9696. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library Albany branch. 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group. Roman Fever, Edith Wharton short story. Facilitated discussion. Books available at the Library. Parking! 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Wednesday, Oct. 26. 6:30 P.M The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay (1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley and 5811 Racine Street, Oakland) Planning meeting for Mitzvah Day on May 20. Do you know an organization that could benefit from a crew of volunteers? Would you like to be matched up with an existing volunteer site? Noah Zaves, the JCC's Program Coordinator, noahz@jcceastbay.orgwww.constantcontact.com

Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 26/Sacramento and 27/South San Francisco, 2011 .  

"Dementia Care Without Drugs - A Better Approach for Long-term Care Facilities" symposia about misuse of psychotropic drugs as treatment for dementia, difficulty in managing dementia treatment, and non-pharmacological approaches to care. CANHR staff attorney Tony Chicotel presentation, "Stop Drugging Our Elders!" California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform http://www.canhr.org. 415-974-5171. Fax 415-777-2904.  

Thursday, Oct. 27. 12:30 P.M. Celebrating a birthday in October? Cake, music, 

balloons, and good cheer. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. . 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1- 3 P.M. Fall Dance Halloween Stomp. Come in costume, be eligible for “best costume award,” door prizes, refreshments. Volunteers free; others, $2.00 per person. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation with William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion on “The Sceptered Isle: Music of England”. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West branch. 1125 University. 510-981-6270.  

Saturday, Oct. 29. 12:15 P.M. Halloween Bingo Bash. Patrons will receive a free Halloween dauber (ink marker) compliments of Center Advisory Board and Bingo Committee. Doors open at 10:00 A.M., with the first game at 12:15 P.M. 18 years of age+ are welcome. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av. 510-747-7506. 


Tuesday, Nov. 1. 12 Noon – 2 P.M. League of Women Voters. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. The League of Women Voters invites you to join them. 

Tuesday, Nov. 1. 6 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Discussion: School violence-- myths and realities. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday(s), Nov. 2 and 9. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Program. Preregistration required. $12. for AARP members, $14. for others. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Note: FREE for ALL Veterans in November.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Nov. 9, 16, 23, and 30.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 1 P.M. Mastick Book Club members review One Day by David Nicholls. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506, -7510. Free.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 1-2 P.M. Jewelry Making for Adults, with Yu Lan. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 17.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Free. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. 

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 7 P.M. Democracy For America Meetup. Pizza 6:30 P.M. Presentation at 7 P.M. Rockridge Library, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. Contact Nancy M. Friedman at nmf123@pacbell.net

Thursday, Nov. 3. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Literacy Reading Club. Practice English conversation. Albany Library, 1257 Marin Av. 510-745-1480. Also Nov. 10, 17. 

Thursday, November 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE. Free workshop. Speaker Mariaelena Lemus from the Social Security Administration. For older adults, family members, service providers. Reservations not required. Continuing into December, program will be presented throughout the Alameda County Library system; for a list of dates and locations, check the Alameda County Library system website. Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

Thursday, November 3. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at South Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell. 510-981-6260. Also, Nov. 10 and 30.  

Friday, Nov. 4. 6 P.M. Legal Assistance for Seniors’ 35th Anniversary Gala. Oakland Marriott City Center Ballroom, 1001 Broadway. 510-832-3040.  

Saturday, Nov. 5. Book Into Film: The Last Station. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236 for required registration. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 2 P.M. Performers’ showcase. At Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Participants from the weekly Playreaders program present scenes from classic and contemporary plays. 510-981-6241. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 3-5 P.M. Cuban Music & Dance, refreshments. At Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby Street, Berkeley. Benefit Performance for the Berkeley-Palma Soriano Cuban Sister-City Association. To support December solidarity brigade delegation to Cuba. Street parking. AC #49 (Counterclockwise) stops in front. Sliding scale donation $10-25.00, no one turned away for lack of funds. Contact: Dana Merryday 510-464-4615. 

Monday, Nov. 7. 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. Roger Baer, Volunteer Instructor, returns to teach his American Backgrounds 7-weeks course. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Wednesday, Nov. 9. 6:30-8 P.M. Drop-in poetry writing workshop. Free. Albany Library. 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. 

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10 – 11:30 A.M. Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506  

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10:30 A.M. New Member Orientation & YOU! Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS). Registration required. 510-747-7506.  

Saturday, Nov. 12. 12 Noon. Beef Bowl Anime Club meeting for adults. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Monday, Nov. 14, 11:30 A.M. & 12 Noon. J-Sei Center, 110 Carleton St., Berkeley. Lecture “Do You Have the Right Insurance?” Speaker: Darrell Doi-CLTC Financial Advisor. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch, call 510-883-1106. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 12:30 P.M. – 1:30P.M. Brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum: Bob Lewis, Birds of the Bay Trail cosponsored by Albany YMCAnd Albany library at 1257 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Tuesday, Nov. 15 is Annual National Memory Screening Day. http:///www.nationalmemoryscreening.org

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 1 P.M. Falls Prevention Discussion Group. Senior Injury Prevention Project. Participants will receive a Falls Prevention Manual and other useful, easy to read information. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 7 P.M. Author Showcase. Annette Fuentes, investigative reporter and author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, is an op ed contributor to USA Today. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 11 A.M. Outreach Specialist Colleen Fawley (510-981-6160) will visit J-Sei Senior Center, 1710 Carleton Way, Berkeley, to answer questions and take requests for books and magazines available from the Berkeley Public Library in Japanese and English. 510-883-1106. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 7 – 8 P.M. Adult Evening Book Group. Facilitated discussion . Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av., 510-526-3720.  

Thursday, Nov 17. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Free dental consultation with Dr. Alfred Chongwill. By appointment only. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 12:30 P.M. Birthday Celebration. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 1:30 P.M. Volunteer Instructor William Sturm presents “Musical Grab-Bag” medley of pieces by composers discussed in the Music Appreciation Class for 2011. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Friends of the Albany Library Book Sale, 1247 Marin Av. Please do not bring donations the week prior to the sale. 510-526-3720 x 16. Also Sunday, Nov. 20 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6241. 


Wednesday, Nov. 23. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, Nov. 28. 2 – 3:30 P.M. “Vigee-LeBrun:Woman Artist in an Age of Revolution” presentation by Brigit Urmson. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 


Warbler Variations and the Origin of a Species

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 11:30:00 AM
Audubon's warbler: a natural hybrid?
P Terzian (Wikimedia Commons)
Audubon's warbler: a natural hybrid?
Myrtle warbler: a parent species?
Simon Pierre Barrette (Wikimedia Commons)
Myrtle warbler: a parent species?

The mule is in many ways an admirable creature. It’s tough and adaptable. It has a mind of its own, but it’s open to negotiation. The US Army has rediscovered the virtues of mules as pack animal in inhospitable terrain like most of Afghanistan. The one thing a mule can’t do, of course, is reproduce its own kind. The offspring of a male horse and a female donkey, it’s the archetypal sterile hybrid. 

Not all hybrids share the mule’s fate, however. Sometimes they are not only reproductively viable, but have a competitive edge over either of the parent species. That’s how a hybrid can become a founder of a whole new species. Natural selection has the last word on that; but hybridization provides another source of genetic variation to work on, along with mutation and random drift. 

Hybrid speciation is old hat to botanists. It can happen in one of two ways in plants: polyploidy speciation, in which the hybrid offspring has a different number of chromosomes from either parent, and homoploid speciation, in which chromosome number remains constant but parental genes are recombined. The polyploidy version happens more often, accounting for 2 to 4 percent of speciation events in flowering plants. Some twenty homoploid plant species of hybrid origin are known, including a trio of desert sunflowers that outcompete their moisture-loving parent species in dry habitats. 

For animals, homoploid or recombination speciation is the dominant mode. Scientists are just beginning to appreciate the potential of hybridization in the creation of new animal species. It was first recognized in invertebrates, mainly butterflies. Matthew Forister of the University of Nevada, Reno identified a newly discovered species of butterfly in the High Sierra as a natural hybrid of the northern blue and the Melissa blue. The Appalachian tiger swallowtail was found by Harvard biologists Marcus Kronfost and Krushnamegh Kunte to be a hybrid of the Canadian tiger and eastern tiger swallowtails. The ranks of known hybrid species also include a couple of fish, notably a southwestern minnow called the Virgin (as in Virgin River) chub. 

Now it’s the birds’ turn. Earlier this year a group of European biologists reported that the Italian sparrow originated through hybridization between the ubiquitous house, or English, sparrow and the more narrowly distributed Spanish sparrow. Closer to home, an article in Molecular Ecology by Alan Brelsford and Darren Irwin of the University of British Columbia and Borja Mila of UCLA make a persuasive case that the bird formerly known as the Audubon’s warbler is a hybrid species (abstract at www.mendeley.com/research/hybrid-origin-audubons-warbler.) 

There is a taxonomic thicket to hack through at this point, so bear with me. Between 1766 and 1897, ornithologists described four similar species of wood warbler: the myrtle warbler of eastern North America, the Audubon’s warbler of western North America, the black-fronted warbler of northern Mexico, and the Goldman’s warbler of Chiapas and Guatemala. The four could be distinguished by plumage. Among more subtle differences, adult male myrtles have white throats; the other three have yellow throats, and black-fronted and Goldman’s have more extensive black in their plumage than Audubon’s. Audubon’s breeds in the California mountains and coastal forest and is a common winter visitor in the Bay Area; myrtle winters here in lower numbers. 

The two Mexican forms were demoted to subspecies of Audubon’s in 1921. After myrtle and Audubon’s warblers were caught hybridizing in western Canada, the American Ornithological Union merged the two in a new taxon christened the yellow-rumped warbler. Birders continued to use the old nomenclature, and some biologists have argued that the two were lumped on insufficient evidence. Last year a proposal to split the yellow-rumped complex into two, three, or four separate species was voted down by the AOU. 

That might have to be reconsidered in light of the new data from Brelsford, Mila, and Irwin. Analyzing blood and tissue samples taken within the breeding ranges of all four types, they focused on mitochondrial DNA, a signal for maternal inheritance, and nuclear DNA sequences identified by amplified fragment length polymorphism markers, which are used to test hypotheses of hybrid speciation. Mitochondrial patterns grouped most Audubon’s warblers with myrtle warblers, except for Arizona samples that aligned with the black-fronted warbler. The AFLP picture was different: myrtle and black-fronted samples formed well-separated clusters, with Audubon’s intermediate between the two and partially overlapping with black-fronted. Three of the forms—myrtle, black-fronted, and Goldman’s—had unique AFLP variants. Audubon’s had none. 

Their conclusion: “the Audubon’s warbler…as defined by previous taxonomy clearly represents an admixture between two long-divergent lineages, coronata [myrtle] and nigrifrons [black-fronted], which differ substantially in plumage, morphology, migratory behavior and both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA.” While allowing the possibility of other origin scenarios, they regard hybridization between myrtle and black-fronted as the most likely explanation of their findings. When and where the two parent species met remains to be determined; it may have happened in the Canadian Rockies about 16,000 years ago. 

So Audubon’s warbler, if we can call it that, may be a genetically distinct organism, bounded by stable hybrid zones in the north (with myrtle) and south (with black-fronted.) In between, natural selection has favored the perpetuation of the mix. 

The cases of hybrid speciation described so far may be just the tip of the iceberg. With this, and the emerging patterns of lateral gene transfer among bacteria and more complex organisms, it may be time to retire the venerable image of the evolutionary tree: the only image in Darwin’s Origin of Species. The tree is beginning to look more like a web.

On Mental Illness: Stereotypes and Stigma

By Jack Bragen
Sunday October 16, 2011 - 05:51:00 PM

Society has an unfriendly perception of persons with mental illnesses. Persons with mental illness are thought to be murderers, sociopaths, and wild people who are out of control. This is usually not accurate. Television news does a good job of making people believe that persons with mental illness do most of the violent crimes in society; but this is not so. Only a small percentage of violent acts are perpetrated by persons with mental illness, and most mentally ill people are not violent. Most violence in society is probably due to domestic issues, the narcotics trade, and also gang activity. Most criminals aren’t mentally ill; they are criminals, a fairly distinct category of people. Most persons with mental illness are gentler than the average person, and many would choose death for themselves long before hurting another person. 

Persons with mental illness are thought to be freaky and sick people; abnormal, unwashed, and a crude and inferior breed of people—almost subhuman. Even a Zen practitioner in an article in a popular meditation magazine said: “It is hard to have compassion for such people.” (When I read that, a statement which I believe was bigoted, I was outraged because of its illustrious and supposedly evolved source.) 

In fact, persons with mental illness aren’t freaks; we are actual human beings with feelings. We want the same things for ourselves that nearly everyone wants. Yet, many of those good things in life, which non-afflicted people take for granted, for us are out of reach. 

When someone disrespects us or treats us with condescension, we are impacted. When this happens repeatedly on a daily basis, it becomes ingrained into our psyches. We may eventually become the drooling circus act who people believe us to be. 

Misconceptions about persons with mental illness run parallel to misconceptions that existed up until recently concerning African American people, other non Caucasian people, Gay people and Lesbian people. If your memory is long enough, the negative stereotypes that society has about persons with mental illness are pretty much the same falsehoods that existed decades ago concerning other minority groups. However, in society today, it is still socially acceptable to have disdain, false superiority and dislike toward persons with mental illness. 

Persons with mental illness are vulnerable. In the jails and prisons we become victims of some of the worst abuse. Outside of jail, criminals often prey on us as easy victims. In mainstream society, we are the butt of people’s jokes and are socially excluded. In treatment venues, our perspective and our worth are often invalidated. Family who are more successful may not tell their peers even of our existence. Businesspersons may hire us for only the most demeaning of jobs. 

Persons with mental illness may be the last minority. And we, too, are waiting for the day when all people are treated with dignity and respect.

The Public Eye: Who Killed the US Economy? Accounting Parasites

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 14, 2011 - 10:57:00 AM

As the US Economy stagnates and 14 million Americans remain unemployed, Washington politicians play familiar blame games. Republicans believe our problems stem from too much government and claim the economy would right itself if there were fewer taxes and regulations. Democrats assert the economy failed because of faulty government that permitted egregious corporate behavior and promoted economic inequality. But the real culprit lies deep within the bowels of modern corporations: parasitic accountants who have subverted America’s entrepreneurial spirit and jeopardized the common good. 

In FORBES magazine, management consultant Steve Denning noted that DELL Computer, because of nearsighted financial advice, gave itself away to its Taiwanese supplier: “ASUSTeK came to Dell with an interesting value proposition: ‘We’ve been doing a good job making [circuit] boards. Why don’t you let us make the motherboard for you?’ …Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly… ASUSTeK took over the motherboard, the assembly of the computer, the management of the supply chain and the design of the computer. In each case Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell’s revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. However, the next time ASUSTeK came back, it wasn’t to talk to Dell. It was to talk to Best Buy and other retailers to tell them that they could offer them their own brand or any brand PC for 20% lower cost.” 

Like most American corporate accountants, DELL’s financial people had a simplistic, narrow objective: do whatever would improve the current quarter’s bottom line. Because accountants don’t have a strategic perspective, DELL’s number crunchers didn’t realize the cumulative debilitating impact of the ASUSTeK transactions. Denning observed, “Decades of outsourcing manufacturing have left U.S. industry without the means to invent the next generation of high-tech products that are key to rebuilding its economy.” Parasitic accountants have neutered our entrepreneurs. 

But it’s not only high-tech companies that are infected by these parasites; American corporations from all sectors have been hypnotized by the promise of short-term profits. It’s the conventional “wisdom” that accountants and executives are taught in business school. This dysfunctional perspective is reinforced by contemporary corporate monoculture where employees live in a bubble, log obscene hours, and vacation with their co-workers. As a consequence giant corporations are dogmatically insular with their own warped code of ethics and worldview. 

Corporate accountants dogmatic focus on profitability drives out humanity. There is no room for entrepreneurial creativity, much less the wellbeing of the larger community or the “common good.” 

This parasitic perspective caused commercial lenders to issue sub-prime mortgages beginning in the late nineties and continuing until the housing credit bubble burst in 2007. In 2005 the majority of housing loans made by lenders such as Countrywide Financial and Washington Mutual were “interest only” back by little or no documentation – so called NINJA loans. Accountants advised financial-industry executives they could improve profitability by selling sub-prime (adjustable rate) mortgages and bundling them into mortgage-backed securities. Later the same parasites told executives they could further improve profitability by decreasing the loan documentation requirements. 

In one industry after another we find examples where nearsighted pursuit of profits has trumped common sense and devastated the common good. Most California private timberland is owned by Sierra Pacific Industries that advocates clearcutting where all trees in a given area are cut down, the valuable timber hauled away, the residue burned, and the ground scraped bare and sprayed with herbicides. This process makes more money for SIERRA PACIFIC but it passes on environmental damage to the public and drastically diminishes the amount and quality of the watershed. 

Most public utilities have a similar narrow focus on profits at the expense of the common good. For example, TECO Energy operates the massively polluting Big Bend power plant in Apollo Beach, Florida, because it has low operating costs due to its construction before modern standards for pollution control. 

The advent of accounting parasites is the ultimate triumph of the nerd: hundreds of thousands of corporate finance people who care more about numbers than they do humanity. A culture of parasites who think nothing of firing workers, or stripping them of their benefits, in the name of profitability, 

Accounting parasites have neutered our entrepreneurs, sucked the humanity out of corporate culture and ruined the economy. They don’t understand that the US consumer economy will not function properly unless there is full employment. 

Fixing the US economy doesn’t mean replacing capitalism with socialism – that would bring another set of equally dire problems. The solution first requires taking parasitic accountants out of the corporate driver seat and replacing them with entrepreneurs – like the late Steve Jobs. And second, replacing the current corporate ethics and the relentless emphasis on profitability, with values that consider both workers and the environment; an ethical system that recognizes the American economy won’t function unless we all have a stake in it. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net 

Arts & Events

Around & About Theater: Central Works Premieres Brian Thorstenson's 'Embassy: A Domestic Diplomatic Comedy'

By Ken Bullock
Thursday October 20, 2011 - 04:27:00 PM

Billed as "Graham Greene Meets Liberace" and as a "shamelessly farcical mix of the personal and the political," Central Works--always a good bet for high theatrical values in staging with a low price in an intimate setting--is premiering Brian Thorstenson's Embassy, A Domestic Diplomatic Comedy at the City Club. Gary Graves directs Richard Frederick, Daniel Redmond, Olivia Rosaldo, Cole Alexander Smith and Jan Zvaifler, with costumes by Tammy Berlin and sound by Gregory Scharpen. (Central Works develops every play collaboratively with writer, director, company, and tech staff.)
Previews this Thursday and Friday at 8; opening on Saturday at 8, running Thursday-Sunday (Sundays at 5) through November 20. Sliding scale at door: $25-$14--& Pay What You Can, October 20, 21 & 27, November 3. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant. 558-1381; centralworks.org

New: Kronos Quartet Resets the Clock

By Lou Fancher
Wednesday October 19, 2011 - 11:02:00 AM

You're too late to catch the Kronos Quartet’s most recent one night stand on the UC Berkeley Campus, but don't despair: they return February 12 at 7 p.m. to Hertz Hall. Their appearance in the same venue earlier this month was a revelation.

Not content to simply play masterfully while representing acclaimed composer Steve Reich’s grand themes of terror and peace, Kronos Quartet used bow and string to transcend the limits of time and place.

It was Sunday, October 9th, 2011, at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, and yet, it was not. 

Following the pulsing trajectory of Reich’s signature repetitions, Kronos violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler presented four works, including the Bay Area premiere of WTC 9/11, composed in response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. 

The composer, whose works have been inspected, analyzed, and declared “pioneering” for their minimalism, has developed thick, multi-layered profiles in more recent compositions. Submarine themes rise to the surface in both subtle and obvious ways, but always, there is a pounding, forward-leaning momentum to the music. 

Triple Quartet (1999), its three movements played without pause, drove listeners up jagged Alpine slopes with its feverish energy. Lighting Designer Laurence Neff’s blue lights glinted off the instruments and cast angular, marine shadows across the stage floor, extending the cool, edginess of the sound. A swirling adagio section allowed respite, as if to catch one’s breath, before the final movement returned to a vigorous, uphill battle to reach the summit. 

It was Berkeley, and it was Switzerland. 

Selections from The Cave (1993) developed from transcribed phrases chosen for their melodic content. With an underlying pulse reminiscent of a heart monitor or car alarm (one, you want to continue; one, you pray will stop), the work gained intensity from blurted vocal fragments (recorded) and percussive instrumentation (live). Middle Eastern influences signaled a mournful cello solo, with Zeigler’s extended droning accompanied by a muffled, prison-crowd-like recording. 

The third work before intermission was the eagerly-awaited WTC 9/11. Here then, is where Reich’s musical topography reached both into the past, with phone and fire alarms, and into the future, with the quartet’s instruments assuming a textual, nearly spoken voice. 

The triple decker delivery—three string quartets twisting into one, with occasionally indecipherable recorded words featuring residents and fire department personnel remembering the tragic day—swept the sold-out audience out of the present. 

A comment, overheard in the lobby during intermission, said it all: “I felt like I was right there, on the street. I couldn’t breathe.” 

The final piece, Different Trains, was the most compelling compilation of voice and instrument. Sweeping from recordings of Holocaust survivors telling their stories to American and European trains to the buoyant voice of retired Pullman porter Lawrence Davis, the spoken samples embraced all of history. It was war, Reich’s own cross-continental travel after his parents’ divorce, and every traveler in Hertz Hall’s memory of real or imagined journeys. 

The three movements revealed another Reich hallmark: sweet swells signaling the end of breath-taking runs with either an exhausted sigh, or a death defying leap into silence. A silence broken finally, after seconds of rest, by the lengthy applause from the time travelers in Berkeley.

Around & About Theater, Music--& John Malkovich: The Infernal Comedy, Friday at Zellerbach

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 11:17:00 AM

I've been on the road nonstop since 1982," says John Malkovich, speaking of his career for a CNN mini-doc (which can be viewed online—click on "Multimedia" under the photo of Malkovich) ... and comments on his reputation for playing psycho heavies: "they're only talking about four or five films that happened to make hundreds of millions of dollars." 

Malkovich's comments and wry tributes by Glenn Close and Antony Hopkins serve to introduce snippets of his unusual stage project—his first flush of celebrity was in 1980 onstage at the Steppenwolf in Chicago, and Obies for True West and Death of a Salesman—The Infernal Comedy, the true-life story of an Austrian Don Juan and serial killer, starring Malkovich, two operatic sopranos—and the Musica Angelica Baroque Ensemble, this Friday night at Zellerbach Auditorium. 

Playing Jack Unterweger, back from the grave to push his autobiography by reading and acting it out to compositions from Vivaldi and Gluck to Beethoven and von Weber, Malkovich has plenty of opportunity to address the audience, interact with the singers—and improvise, making each performance different. The script was written especially for the show by writer-director Michael Sturminger, of whom Malkovich says "I feel I finally met the person who I should be working with." (Malkovich also serves as co-director.) 

Unterweger was sentenced to life imprisonment in Austria in 1976 for killing a young girl, but his book Purgatory became a best-seller, and he was released as a model prisoner in 1990, only to kill more women—almost a dozen in all—on two continents. 

In the midst of a world tour, stretching from St. Petersburg and Tblisi to Lima and Rio, Malkovich and his team—Sturminger and music director Michael Haselboeck (in Berkeley, the orchestra will be led by guest conductor Adrian Kelly)—have already premiered a new piece, The Giacomo Variations, with Malkovich as Casanova to music by Mozart, touring next year. 

"Such a warm-hearted, reliable man!" enthuses writer-director Sturminger about his star—while Malkovich, rehearsing with a soprano, declares: "She's dead—and miked!" 

Additional information and the script, with compositions to be played, at: theinfernalcomedy.org 

Friday at 8, Zellerbach Auditorium, Cal Performances—$20-$140. 642-9988; calperformances.org

Eye From the Aisle: Rep’s HOW to Write a NEW Book for the Bible—too funny, often too tragic to abide

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday October 18, 2011 - 09:09:00 AM
Linda Gehringer as Mary
Linda Gehringer as Mary

How to Write a NEW Book for the Bible, now playing its world premiere at Berkeley Rep, is written by a recently successful playwright Bill Cain, S.J. Many of you of The Faith or not will recognize the letters: Cain is also a Jesuit priest.

It seems like a play written by a priest. It is about ministering to the sick, about keeping watch, about the most profoundly prolonged last rites as he moves in with his cancer-riddled, pain-oppressed, dying mother to care for her in her last days.  

There is an equation about tragedy that has to do with distance. The night I attended there was a contingent of young people in the audience. I venture that it may have been more digestible for them than for much of the elder crowd.  

If you’ve ever gone home for a while, or had to clean out an apartment of a departed loved one, the found pictures and mementos bring on strong reverie. That’s the substance of this play. That, and elevating to a sacrament the tragedy of a domestic, ordinary life and its inevitable, terrible end. 

It brought to mind Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ,” wherein the lashes and blows just kept falling incessantly for two hours. I remember as a sensitive child weeping at the Stations of the Cross, a Good Friday Catholic ritual which documents in detail the last excruciating 15 -odd hours of my childhood hero Jesus. When I saw the movie, wincing at each lash and pang, I just wished for it to be over and for peace to be bestowed. The same pleading went on in my head from the extraordinarily believable performance of Linda Gehringer. 

We see Mother Mary’s endurance and dignity replete with her flashbacks to her late husband Pete who was a great dancer, but it is through the eye of Billy the Priest and Writer we see the family and its culture. His diary-based detail of her pain and decline, of the doctors, of her fugues, her medicines, their spats, his frustrations, are played against his remembrance of a childhood in an honest if demanding, loving family who never went to bed mad. Their names, Peter, Paul, and Mary, are appropriately biblical, and are ironically the actual names of his parents and brother to whom he dedicates the play. The metaphor is that every family is holy and legendary and should have its history recorded as a lasting commemoration and lesson. This comes from a celibate man who will not be continuing his lineage. Plato opined that we get our immortality by communing with great thoughts, through our progeny, and through leaving works after us; we childless must opt for two out of three.  

It is sweet. It is tragic. It is often droll and occasionally belly-laugh funny. And it is too awful to sit through. In the midst of the second act, I wept uncontrollably, vainly trying to stifle my sobs with hands pressed to face so as not to disturb my neighbors. Ordinarily, my urges to flee the theatre are based on tedium, but if I had been actually on the aisle, I think I would have slipped out in desperation. Perhaps my own situation and guilt and memories intrude. Perhaps this is better viewed from the distant perspective of a younger person. But in the lobby afterwards, others talked about the impact and the power. The word is excruciating, as in crucify, which comes from crucifare which means “to torture.”  

The acting is superb with Tyler Pierce as a buff and hunky Billy, a priest/playwright/screenwriter with a thick head of hair, narrating our journey into the hell of cancer. Leo Marks and Aaron Blakely play multiple parts of father, brother, doctor, hairdresser, and more, with ease and aplomb.  

Scott Bradley’s minimal and imaginistic set is just right for this epic tale. Most of the set is suspended in plain sight though a little above, and descends at intervals to dress the stage—just like everyone’s family history—and is thus a functional metaphor. Alexander Nichol’s lighting is noteworthy, with insets of up-light in a moving fraternal scene in a pilgrimage to The Wall in D.C. with his Viet Nam veteran brother Paul. Director Kent Nicholson sustains the energy with imaginative blocking and fluid changes, and handles well the reprised, potentially difficult ending. 

Cain has twice been awarded the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics prize in successive years, a unique record. He won for “Equivocation,” his speculative history about Shakespeare’s demand commission by Elizabeth I’s government to write a contemporary play about the Gunpowder Plot, and “9 Circles”—after Dante’s work—about the Iraq war and prisoners, another form of hell, which premiered at the Marin Theatre Company also under Nichols direction. 


At Berkeley Repertory Theatre 

Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley 

(510) 647-2949 – www.berkeleyrep.org 


Through November 20, 2011 


Directed by Kent Nicholson, set by Scott Bradley, costumes by Callie Floor (costumes), lighting by Alexander V. Nichols, and sound by Matt Starritt. 


WITH: Aaron Blakely (Paul), Linda Gehringer (Mary), Leo Marks (Pete), and Tyler Pierce (Bill) 



John A. McMullen II is a member of SDC, SFBATCC, and ATCA, with an MFA from CMU (abcdefg!) Editing by E J Dunne.

Press Release: School Violence: Myths and Reality - Rescheduled - A Discussion with Annette Fuentes and Jody Sokolower at the Berkeley Public Library, Tuesday, November 1 at 6 p.m.

From the Berkeley Public Library
Wednesday October 19, 2011 - 11:02:00 AM

Berkeley Public Library invites you to participate in a discussion of the myths and reality of school violence with Annette Fuentes and Jody Sokolower. Author Annette Fuentes and editor Jody Sokolower will speak about zero tolerance discipline and the school to prison pipeline in the community meeting room at the Berkeley Public Library’s Central Library, 2090 Kittredge Street, at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1. Annette Fuentes spent two years as an investigative reporter researching discipline systems in public schools. The result is her recently published book Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse which traces the penetration of prison culture into daily life in public schools. Jody Sokolower is co-editor of Rethinking Schools, a magazine about social justice education for K-12 teachers and education activists. Her work is informed by years of experience as a teacher in public schools including six years at Berkeley High School. Join us for what promises to be a lively discussion of the way education policy impacts violence in our public schools. Please note this is a rescheduled date for this event since the original presentation was canceled due to a power outage. 

Berkeley’s Central Library is open Monday 12 noon until 8 p.m., Tuesday 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday afternoons from 1 p.m. till 5 p.m. For more info please call 510-981-6195 or visit www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org. Wheelchair accessible. To request a sign language interpreter or other accommodations for this event, please call (510) 981-6195 (voice) or (510) 548-1240 (TTY); at least three working days will help ensure availability. Please refrain from wearing scented products to public programs.

Open Houses for LBNL Campus at Golden Gate Fields

By Zelda Bronstein
Monday October 17, 2011 - 04:51:00 PM

Meet the developers, view their latest (revised) proposal for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's second campus, tell them what you think.

Meetings will take place at the racetrack from 4-7 pm. on the following dates: 

  • Monday, October 17, "The New Plan for LBNL at GGF incorporating recent public input;"
  • Monday, October 24, Landscape Design;
  • Tuesday, November 1, the "sustainability model for LBNL at GGF will be explained by the project technical design team."

For more information, go to www.LBNLatGGF.com