A prosecutor told jurors today that Bahsson Carl Smith "was really close to getting away with murder" but evidence eventually tied him to the fatal shooting of popular former Berkeley High School student Keith Stephens six years ago. -more-
About 50 Berkeley High School students will be suspended and up to four could be expelled for a recently discovered scheme in which students hacked into the school's attendance system and sold cleared absences to classmates, school administrators said today. -more-
A striking and provocative design for a new mixed retail and residential building at the old Berkeley Inn site on the northeast corner of Haste and Telegraph was informally previewed Tuesday, April 17, 2012 by architect Kirk Peterson and property owner and developer Ken Sarachan. -more-
In partnership, Merritt College and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center commenced the highly-received Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series to create an exchange of ideas to help inspire new servant leaders among our youth and community members, intergenerationally. This unprecedented, historic series, which highlights the devoted lifetime of service of many civil rights champions who worked directly with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., continues with the next lecture occurring at 7 p.m., on Saturday, April 21, 2012, at the Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA. This lecture is presenting civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis will deliver an address titled “Chaos or community. Where do we go from Here?" -more-
Demand for admission to the University of California, Berkeley’s 2012-13 freshman class hit a record high this season, with nearly 62,000 students applying. Among them, some 13,000 exceptional students have been offered admission, campus officials announced today (Tuesday, April 17). -more-
Berkeley police shot and injured a suspect who opened fire on them Friday night, police said. -more-
A judge ruled today that Daniel Jordan Dewitt, who is charged with murdering Berkeley hills homeowner Peter Cukor two months ago, should be sent to the Napa State Hospital to be treated for his mental illness. -more-
The son of a 67-year-old man who was killed outside his home in the Berkeley hills two months ago today disputed statements by Berkeley police that his father called a non-emergency phone number to report an intruder. -more-
Hate Man's back, after an Alameda County judge accepted a deal Monday in which one trespassing charge was dropped and another suspended. -more-
Panic attack! In recent days we’ve been bombarded with examples of how the late 20th century pop-psych emotion of “feeling threatened” has turned into a license for armed men to do stupid things with dire consequences. -more-
The Editor's Back Fence
Reader Tom Hunt, who worked in retail on Telegraph for many of the same years I worked in a computer startup there, directed my attention to a photo of the participants in the "Telegraph Avenue Project" which appeared on the Berkeleyside website.
"Guess what I thought when I saw the photo of the 'Telegraph Project' attendees?" he asked.
It looked to me like a bunch of old white guys hoping to remake Telly in their own image, one which is quite different from the UC students and staff who are the Ave's main users.
Tom, a math major in his days at Cal, thoughtfully provided data to quantify the obvious—see accompanying chart.
Not, of course, that I have anything against old white guys. Some of my best friends.... -more-
If the woes of the world are getting you down, the perfect antidote is the witty Tom Stoppard double bill now down to its last seven performances at Point Richmond's Masquers' Theater. The Real Inspector Hound is a clever send-up of every English house party murder mystery you've ever read, and it manages to nick Downton Abbey's copious clichés into the bargain, even though it predates the wildly popular Masterpiece Theater soap opera. That's the main act. The encore is The Fifteen-Minute Hamlet—same author, same cast, also sidesplitting funny. I hate British accents badly done by inept Americans, but this performance manages to avoid that trap. -more-
This week I'm going back to the previous "new issue" schedule, creating a new dated issue only on Friday, probably late in the day. This seems to be a better way of tracking events as they happen during the week. Our arts writers have also requested that their previews and reviews stay current for a full week, to help build audiences, which seems reasonable. New articles will be posted daily in the current issue as usual, often marked new, and usually at the top of their category. -more-
The Berkeley Police Department will have a new Public Information Officer, replacing Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, sometime this summer. According to Capt. Andrew Greenwood, Investigations Division Commander, "the PIO position is among several others (e.g. some detective positions, etc.) that are due for rotation at our next shift selection/rotation process, currently scheduled for late June." -more-
East Bay Regional Parks Directors will vote to approve or reject Ordinance 38 changes on April 17, 2012. East Bay Regionals Parks staff proposes changes to Ordinance 38 that impact those with mobility and visual challenges—and they refuse to acknowledge the barriers to park access these will create for a vulnerable and underserved population. East Bay Regional Park Ord 38 regulates domestic animals in the EBRPD, including dogs. For example, dogs must be leashed in parking lots, developed areas and on paved roads. -more-
SOME BACKGROUND: -more-
They had helmets. They had batons, radios, gloves, guns, tasers, pepper balls, and, of course, oleoresin capsaisin (OC) spray, commonly known as pepper spray. -more-
The recent decision by the Taliban and one of its allies to withdraw from peace talks with Washington underlines the train wreck the U.S. is headed for in Afghanistan. Indeed, for an administration touted as sophisticated and intelligent, virtually every decision the White House has made vis-à-vis Afghanistan has been a disaster. -more-
Much publicity has been given to the tragic death of Peter Cukor, apparently killed by a disoriented mentally ill man. This is the sort of thing that creates widespread panic of the public and that inspires many citizens to look for legislation that would prevent future tragedies of this kind. Certainly, it is a sad thing that Mr. Cukor was killed in the prime of life, and my heart goes out to his family. -more-
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is a branch of the federal government headed by a Postmaster General and a Board of Governors with further oversight provided by the Postal Regulatory Commission. However, ultimate authority over the USPS rests with Congress. The USPS is structured like a business in that revenues from the sale of postal products generally cover costs, and it receives virtually no federal appropriations. The organization is the second-largest civilian employer in the United States—after Wal-Mart—with about 600,000 workers. If the USPS was a private company, it would rank about 28th on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. -more-
With the departure of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney is sure to win the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. His campaign has turned its focus to President Obama. The first week of April, both Obama and Romney spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Their speeches previewed what we’re likely to hear from their two candidates over the next seven months: very different perspectives on economic fairness. -more-
It’s Saturday afternoon, April 7. A goodly crowd is gathered in front of and inside Berkeley Public Library’s North branch. People standing around in long-time-no-see groups, chatting and filling up space. Among North’s additions, I notice a second Disabled parking spot, this one in front of the building. Somebody hands me a colorful I LOVE MY LIBRARY button, and I do, although subsequent visits prove disappointing. I’ll postpone judgment for a month or so. More later… Which is my segue into books. -more-
Arts & Events
Adhering to its rich history of presenting cutting-edge music, Berkeley Symphony will honor the artists who write and perform the music—its composers and musicians—at its 2012 Gala, RESONATE! Celebrating Composers & Musicians. Hosted by Music Director Joana Carneiro, RESONATE! will be held on May 18 at the landmark Claremont Hotel Club & Spa. -more-
Granted the month is only half over, it isn't too soon to look ahead to May--one of the loveliest months of the year. May Day is a traditional Spring holiday in many cultures, dating back to the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. In the Roman Catholic tradition May is observed as Blessed Mary Virgin's month. It's also recognized in the U.S. at Law Day. O.k., so much for history. Let's go now to the great April/May cultural events springing up all over the place. -more-
As an exciting last minute addition to the Berkeley Arts Festival’s spring season, composer/pianist Jed Distler will perform the complete works of the legendary jazz composer/pianist/icon Thelonious Monk—about 70 compositions— within a single concert (approximately 90 minutes of music plus intermission) at 7:30 PM. Wednesday, April 18 at the Berkeley Arts Festival, 2133 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA. Suggested donation at the door is $10-$15. The year 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of Monk’s death; Distler premiered his show February 17, the actual anniversary, at the Cornelia Street Café in Manhattan, then performed it at LightSoundSPace in Rahway, NJ and, most recently, at the Winchester Arts Center in Las Vegas, NV. Distler weaves the songs together into a seamless, uninterrupted and refreshingly varied canvass. -more-
PREVIEW: His Truth Goes Marching On: Musical Theater John Brown’s Truth at Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center, April 15, 22, & 29
“I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right!” John Brown, a white man, uttered these words in his speech to the court in 1859 after being convicted of treason, murder, and conspiracy as a result of his raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry. A staunch abolitionist who believed that rebellion was the only way to end slavery and to prevent the Civil War, John Brown gathered a multiracial band of Americans in the hopes of dismantling the nation’s infernal institution by freeing enslaved Africans throughout the South. Although his plan failed and John Brown was sentenced to death for his actions, his commitment to justice for all was valorized by his abolitionist contemporaries, including Frederick Douglass, who wrote in 1881: “His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine—it was as the burning sun to my taper light—mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.” -more-
AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC: The Alexander String Quartet at Berkeley City Club for Berkeley Chamber Concerts
The Alexander String Quartet—Zakarias Grafilo & Frederick Lifsitz, violins; Paul Yarbrough, viola; and Sandy Wilson, cello, celebrating their 30th anniversary—will perform "Gems of the Classical Repertoire" (Beethoven, Janacek & Shostakovich), presented by Berkeley Chamber Performances, Tuesday, April 17, 8 p. m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2311 Durant (between Ellsworth & Dana). The program: Janacek: String Quartet no. 1, "Kreutzer Sonata;" Beethoven: String Quartet opus 95, "Serioso;" Shostakovich: Preludes & Fugues, opus 87 (arranged Grafilo) and String Quartet no. 4. $25. (High school students, free; post-high school students, $12.50) 525-5211; berkeleychamberperform.org -more-
Hearing many favorable reports of the Di Rosa Art Museum in Napa, I happily signed up for the Emeryville Senior Center trip to that historic landmark last Saturday. What a lovely day it was! Just the drive along the Carneros vineyards was heaven itself. Our first stop was at the Oxbow Public Market where Frieda Pardo, our tour escort, passed out hearty box lunches. We then proceeded to the di Rosa Art Museum, where we were greeted by the Museum's guide who filled us in on the fascinating history of the Museum founded by Rene and Veronica di Rosa, whose personal passion for art fueled their support of arts and artists. The collection, which sits on over 2000 acres of vineyards and gardens, is a place that provokes the imagination and creative spirit of our time and place through celebration of the art and artists of Northern California in an unsurpassed landscape. -more-
Two Operas in Berkeley This Weekend: Otello Matinees Saturday and Sunday, John Brown's Truth on Sunday Night
This weekend you have not just one but two chances to see live operatic performances in Berkeley at bargain prices.
The first one, which you've seen advertised here for a week or so, is a Verdi classic special, Otello. It's full of passion, the quintessential love-and-death spectaculo. Both matinee performances feature Fred Winthrop, the dramatic tenor who's also the impresario who has produced Verismo Opera's string of Bay Area performances, which usually have at least one Berkeley date. The two sopranos who sing Desdemona, both Berkeley favorites, are double-cast. Eliza O'Malley appears at the 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, Gillian Kuhner on Sunday at 2, both at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street at Arch.
Then on Sunday night is the first performance this spring of John Brown's Truth, previewed below, an evolving piece of what's being called musically improvised musical theater. It uses a variety of musical styles (afro-caribbean/jazz/european-classical/spoken-word/dance} to tell the story of abolitionist John Brown’s anti-slavery raid on Virginia 150 years ago in a quasi-operatic vein. -more-