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Hiker Falls to His Death in Berkeley Hills

By BCN and Planet
Thursday November 15, 2012 - 06:14:00 PM

A man was found dead from an apparent fall in the Berkeley Hills on Wednesday evening, a University of California at Berkeley police captain said. 

According to Kristin Bender in the Oakland Tribune, UC Berkeley police Capt. Stephen Roderick identified the man as Jonathan Mendiola Urbina, 24, of Richmond.  

UC Berkeley police responded to a report of a hiker who had gone missing from his group near Signpost 15 on Grizzly Peak Boulevard at about 6:30 p.m., Capt. Margo Bennett said. 

When police arrived, the hiking group of four told police the fifth member of the group had trekked to a different area had not returned, Bennett said. Police searched the area and found the man down the hillside. 

Bennett said police learned from the group that the man and another hiker had started to climb a large rock in the area. The second hiker had left the man to return to the group, but the victim stayed by the rock, she said. 

Bennett said it appears the victim fell from the rock. He was pronounced dead at the scene.  

The members of the group said they had been drinking prior to the apparent accident, the captain said. 

"It's never a good idea to drink and do any physical activity," Bennett said. 

The apparent fall occurred on UC Berkeley property in the hills, but none of the group members are affiliated with UC Berkeley, she said. 

Berkeley fire was called to assist police. The incident remains under investigation.

Measure T is Toast

By Rob Wrenn
Thursday November 15, 2012 - 06:17:00 PM

THURSDAY UPDATE: Figures posted today were the same as those posted yesterday. So far there's no explanation of why this might be. 

With today's count, Measure T is now losing by 494 votes, up from 467 votes yesterday. The measure is no longer "too close to call". It's now clear that it has been defeated.

While some provisional votes remain to be counted, the provisionals counted to date have favored No on T. There is no realistic possibility that the remaining uncounted provisional votes would be numerous enough or pro-T by a large enough margin to erase a 494 vote deficit.

Yes: 24,577 (49.5%)

No: 25,071 (50.5%) 

County Transportation Sales tax measure B1 crept a little closer to the required two-thirds today. 

Yes: 344,778 (66.34%) 

No: 174,944 (33.66%) 

The remaining votes would have to back B1 by a very large margin for the measure to reach the required two-thirds. B1 is likely to come agonizingly close, but will probably fall short. That would be a major setback for efforts to maintain and improve transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Flash: Berkeley Measure T is Still Losing; So Is Measure S

Wednesday November 14, 2012 - 05:05:00 PM

Measure T continues to lose, now by close to 500 votes. : 

No 25071 50.50
Yes 24577 49.50
Measure S is still a loser, now by 2,323 votes: 

No 27662 52.19
Yes 25339 47.81

Updated: Oakland Council Will Decide Future of Oakland-Berkeley Border Safeway on December 18 Based on Settlement with Neighbors

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday November 13, 2012 - 10:18:00 PM

The Oakland City Council tonight agreed to postpone until December 18 their final decision on Safeway's proposed expansion of their store at College and Claremont on the Oakland-Berkeley border.

It was announced this afternoon that Safeway had reached a settlement agreement with a trio of neighborhood organizations who have appealed the Oakland planning commission's decision to grant Safeway the permits they sought in their initial proposal.

The settlement reduces the size of the new building to 45,500 gross square feet, puts parking on the roof and provides up to an hour of free parking for shoppers at other nearby stores.

At tonight's meeting, all councilmembers praised Councilmember Jane Brunner for mediating the agreement. Some stressed points in the deal that they wanted planning staff to examine carefully. The staff will work with Safeway to create a revised proposal that reflects the terms of the agreement, which Brunner's office has made public. 

UPDATE: Terms of the agreement reached between the Safeway Corporation and three citizen groups, Friends and Neighbors of Safeway (FANS), the Rockridge Community Planning Council and Berkeleyans for Pedestrian Oriented Development have been released by Oakland Councilmember Jane Brunner. Safeway has agreed to modify the project according to a 15-point list of terms. 

Among the provisions in the agreement: 

  • In addition to reducing the size of the Safeway store itself, associated shops will add no more than 9,500 gross square feet to the development.
  • Employee parking will be restricted to off-site during peak parking periods,.
  • National chain stores will occupy no more than 40% of the shops by square footage.

The full agreement and Councilmember Brunner's letter can be found here: 

Safeway Agreement Term Sheet 

Flash: Latest Results on Berkeley Measure T--No Still Ahead

Tuesday November 13, 2012 - 04:59:00 PM

The No votes continue to lead on Berkeley Measure C, a proposal to rezone several large West Berkeley land holdings. 


Total Precincts: 101 Precincts Reported: 101 Percent Reported: 100.00
Contest # of Votes % of Total
No 24760 50.48
Yes 24293 49.52

The latest full update can be found here.

Press Release: Safeway Announces Terms of Settlement

Tuesday November 13, 2012 - 05:13:00 PM

Safeway has released this statement about the settlement with College/Claremont neighbors: 

We are pleased to announce that, on November 8, 2012, representatives of Safeway and a coalition of Rockridge residents representing RCPC, FANS and BPOD participated in a mediation conducted by Oakland City Councilmember Jane Brunner regarding Safeway’s proposed project on College Avenue (the “Project”). At that mediation, the parties reached an agreement in principle to modify the Project. The primary changes to the project would include: 

* Safeway store reduced to 45,500 square feet and placed at street level 

* Sufficient parking on site for Safeway customers and patrons of new small shops. 

* Parking on the roof, accessible via a ramp off College Avenue and a ramp off Claremont Blvd. 

* Re-design of area near College/Claremont intersection to retail only (no sit-down restaurant). Retail shops reduced to 9,500 square feet. 

The parties intend to work toward documenting the terms discussed at the mediation in a final, binding agreement. If such an agreement is reached, RCPC, BPOD and FANs would agree not to object to the revised project and project approvals. In order to allow sufficient time for the Parties to continue their efforts to structure a binding agreement to which all parties are amenable, the Parties have agreed to ask that the Oakland City Council continue to December 18, 2012 the hearing on the Project that currently is scheduled for today, Tuesday, November 13, 2012. While the Oakland City Council may still allow public comment on the project this evening even if the formal hearing is continued to December 18, we prefer that our supporters hold any comments until the hearing that we hope will be held on December 18. Thank you. 

Flash: Tentative Settlement of College Safeway Appeal (Press Release)

From Nancy McKay, FANS
Tuesday November 13, 2012 - 04:45:00 PM

The Rockridge Community Planning Council and Berkeleyans for Pedestrian-Oriented Development (BPOD), the two groups who appealed the Planning Commission's approval of the College Avenue Safeway Project, along with FANS (who was not an appellant) have reached a tentative settlement with Safeway.

The settlement reduces the size of the project by 8,000 sq. ft. It also moves the Safeway store down to ground level, with screened rooftop parking, and opens up a pedestrian plaza east of 63rd St. between College & Claremont. Safeway has agreed to eliminate the project’s parking deficit, as well as to pay for residential permit parking within the surrounding two-block area. There are numerous other benefits included in the settlement. They will be spelled out at tonight’s hearing. The settlement was reached as a result of a mediation effort undertaken by District One Council Member Jane Brunner. 

The public hearing on RCPC’s and BPOD’s appeals will be heard by the City Council tonight, November 13th. The hearing will start some time after 6:30 PM. You can sign up on-line to speak at the hearing at this link

Please come to the hearing and voice your support for this settlement. 

Assuming the settlement is finalized, the revised project will be considered for final approval by the City Council on December 18th. 

Many thanks to all FANS who tirelessly spent time, energy and money over the past 5 years. 

FANS www.fansco.org

Flash: Safeway Settlement with Neighbors Reported

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday November 13, 2012 - 04:37:00 PM

A settlement between Safeway and neighbors who were opposed to the chain's planned expansion on College and Claremont has been reached, according to a report published on berkeleyside.com and attributed to a Safeway press release. The Berkeley Daily Planet has been aware of the settlement since yesterday, when we received a copy of an email detailing its terms, but we have honored the request of settlement participants from FANS, the neighborhood organizers, and the Rockridge Planning Council to hold the story until after the Oakland City Council meets tonight at 5:30 at the Oakland City Hall. More details will be published later this evening after the meeting.

Updated: Post-Election Vote Count: Berkeley's Measure T Is Losing by More Than 400 Votes; Measure S is Firmly Defeated

By Rob Wrenn
Tuesday November 13, 2012 - 05:43:00 PM

Tuesday update: Measure T still lags; has little chance of passing

About 2400-2500 more votes were counted today by the Registrar in Oakland. Measure T picked up only 5 votes, reducing its vote deficit from 472 to 467. But with the count expected to be largely over tomorrow, there is little likelihood that the measure will pass.

Measure T is the only undecided race in Berkeley. Measure S, the anti-sitting measure, is now losing by over 2000 votes, a 52% to 48% margin. Measure N, the pools bond measure, has 62.3%, well short of the required two-thirds. Rent board candidates Judy Shelton, Asa Dodsworth and Alejandro Soto-Vigil from the Progressive Affordable Housing slate, and Judy Hunt from the landlord-financed TUFF slate appear to have been elected. There is a small chance that Igor Tregub, the fourth member of the progressive slate will catch up with Soto-Vigil, who leads him by 155 votes for fourth place. At one point in the count, Tregub was only 13 votes behind Soto-Vigil. 

About 21,000 ballots of Berkeley voters have been counted since Election Day. For the first time in a presidential election, a majority of ballots cast in Berkeley were vote by mail ballots. 

Measure B1, the county transportation sales tax measure, inched closer to the required two-thirds, It now has 66.19%. It's uncertain if enough votes remain to be counted in transit-supportive areas of Berkeley and Oakland to reach two-thirds. 

Monday afternoon update: Measure T continues to fall behind

The Registrar of Voters continued counting votes despite the holiday.

Measure T, the West Berkeley upzoning measure, is now behind by 472 votes, up from yesterday's 440 vote deficit.

Something over 1600 votes were counted today.

At the end of election night, T was behind by only 123 votes (50.19% to 49.18%). T was briefly ahead, by 5 votes, after the the first three days of post-election counting, but its lead disappeared with Friday's count of a huge batch of absentee votes, and the measure has fallen further behind in the last two days counting of smaller batches of votes.

If turnout this year was as high as in 2008, there could be another 6,000 or 7,000 votes on T to count, including provisionals. Provisionals have typically been similar to votes cast at the polls, which this year favored the No on T position 52% to 48%. The remaining absentees, if there are any, would have to break very strongly for T for it to pass, and that has not happened in any of the batches of votes counted to date.

No: 23,728 (50.50%)

Yes: 23,256 (49.50%)

Today's margin: 472

Yesterday's margin 440

SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Measures S and T still losing after Sunday count

Probably not more than 1000 more Berkeley absentees were counted today; 10,000 were counted yesterday. The goal was to finish the count today. Citywide turnout and totals for Mayoral and District 5 Council contests are still well below 2008. There are a reported 40,000 provisionals still to count countywide. Roughly 10% of total votes in the county came from Berkeley in 2008 and 2010. Provisional ballots are typically similar to votes cast at the polls.

Measure T margin: 440 votes ; up from 426 yesterday

No: 23,131 (50.48%)

Yes: 22,691 (49.52%)

Measure S margin: 1583 votes; up from 1407 yesterday

No: 25,191 (51.62%)

Yes: 23,608 (48.38%)

Rent Board:

Soto-Vigil is now ahead of Tregub by 13 votes (was 15). He is now ahead of Drake by 1102 votes (was 978). 




SATURDAY UPDATE: Measure T is 426 votes behind, Measure S defeated

With Saturday's update to the vote count, Measure T is now losing 22,692 (50.47%) to 22,266 (49.53%). At the end of election night, it was losing 50.19% to 49.81%. Absentee votes counted after the election to date are less supportive of T than the election night count, though more supportive than the votes cast at the polls on Election Day.

About 10,000 more absentee ballots were counted on Saturday and it is now clear that Measure S, the anti-sitting measure, has been defeated. No: 24,618 (51.47); Yes: 23,211 (48.53%). Votes remaining to be counted, including provisionals, are not going to erase a 1400 vote deficit.

Saturday's large update had a smaller percentage of votes from the hills and a higher percentage from the flats, the reverse of Friday's count. About 16,000 absentees have now been counted; there may be several thousand left, but they are not likely to change the outcome. Remaining absentee ballots should be counted Sunday, and an update would presumably be posted on the county Registrar of Voter's Web site by the end of the day. The Registrar had said that the absentee count would be completed by Sunday.

Incumbent rent board commissioner Nicole Drake, who ran for re-election on the landlord-financed TUFF slate, is still in sixth place, 978 votes behind Alejandro Soto-Vigil and has no realistic chance of picking up enough votes to come in fourth. Incumbent Igor Tregub, like Soto-Vigil a member of the Progressive Affordable Housing Slate, in fifth place, is now only 15 votes behind Soto-Vigil and might overtake him in the remaining count.

Measure N, the pools bond, while it gained in Saturday's count, is still well short of the required two-thirds, with 62.33% yes. It also doesn't look good for county measure B1, the half cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects, It now has 65.31%, but also needs two-thirds. Berkeley voters supported the measure but it had less support in the southern and eastern parts of Alameda County. There are, however, 40,000 provisional votes still to be counted countywide, in addition to the remaining absentees. 

UPDATE, Friday afternoon: Measure T now up by 5 votes; Measure S losing by 759 votes

More than more 2500 absentee ballots were counted today. The large majority came from Districts 5 and 6. Measure S is still losing, but the margin is 759 votes today; it was 981 yesterday. Odds that Measure S will pass did not improve as many of these votes come from the part of the City where support for Measure S was almost certainly greatest. Berkeleyside reports that the Registrar expects to complete the absentee count by Sunday which suggests that there are probably not a huge number of absentee ballots remaining. Provisional ballots, which will be counted next week, are likely to increase the margin for No on S. No on T is also likely to benefit from provisionals since they typically are similar to votes cast at the polls. But the margin for Yes on T may increase when the remaining absentees are counted. It's likely to be close.

The Yes on Measure S campaign raised over $100,000. most of it in large donations, based on filings that can be viewed online. No on Measure S raised less than $20,000.

About 2200 absentee ballots cast by Berkeley voters were counted on Wednesday and Thursday. Measure T, the West Berkeley upzoning measure, now is leading by a single vote, 16640 to 16639. It had been behind by 123 votes when Election Day counting of votes ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Votes counted on Election Day include initial absentees received before election day and votes cast at the polls. Still to be counted are many absentee ballots turned in at polling places and provisional ballots.


How many Berkeley ballots remain? Unfortunately the County has only said that, countywide, as of Wednesday, 85,000 vote by mail ballots and 40,000 provisional ballots remained to be counted.

In the 2008 presidential election, 66,703 votes were cast in Berkeley, up from 60,818 in 2004 and 54,684 in 2000.

In 2008, 56,270 votes were cast for mayoral candidates. This year, to date, only 34,689 votes have been counted for the six mayoral candidates whose names appeared on the ballot. So it’s possible that 15,000 to 20,000 votes have yet to be counted. Even if turnout was below that of 2004, there would still be thousands more votes to count. 

Measure S 

(as of 4:24 p.m. Nov 8) 

Yes: 17,273 (48.62%) 

No: 18, 254 (51.38%) 

Measure S is still losing; the margin at the end of Thursday’s counting was 981 votes down from a margin of 1055 votes at the end of Election Day. 

Initial absentee votes, released within an hour after the polls closed, favored Measure S by a 58% to 42% margin. Votes cast at the polls, however, favored the NO position by a 57% to 43% margin. 

The votes counted since Election Day favor Measure S by a 52% to 48% margin. If this margin persists with the remaining absentee ballots, then Measure S will certainly fail. Measure S picked up only 74 votes from the count of over 2000. In addition, provisional ballots, which have yet to be counted, have in previous elections, been similar to other votes cast at the polls, and should add to Measure S’s shortfall. 

Measure S was clearly the hottest local issue on this year’s ballot. Of the votes counted to date, 35,527 votes were cast pro or con Measure S. The next most voted-on measure, Measure M, the Streets and Watershed Bond, now has a total of 34,482. Measure V, The Facts Ordinance, at the tail end of one of the ballot cards, attracted only 29,891 voters. In the votes counted to date, more people voted on S than voted for a mayoral candidate. Mayoral votes total 34,768 so far with write-ins included. 

Measure T 

(as of 4:24 p.m. Nov 8) 

Yes: 16640 (50.00%) 

No: 16639 (50.00%) 

Absentees counted since Election Day are favoring Measure T by a 53.7% to 46.3% margin, a bit higher than the margin found in the initial absentees reported on election night. If this margin continues, Measure T is likely to pass. 

Provisional ballots remain to be counted and they are likely to reduce the margin of Yes votes, since voters who voted at their polling place opposed Measure T by a 52% to 48% margin. However, there are certainly more absentees than provisional votes yet to be counted. 

Rent Board – 4 seats 

(as of 4:24 p.m. Nov 8) 

Judy Shelton 13009 

Judy Hunt 12165 

Asa Dodsworth 11449 

Alejandro Soto-Vigil 10893 

Igor Tregub 10787 

Nicole Drake 10380 

Kiran Shenoy 8849 

Jay James 7533 

Nicole Drake of the landlord-financed TUFF slate, is behind Alejandro Soto-Vigil of the Progressive Affordable Housing slate, currently in fourth place, by 513 votes. Drake narrowed the margin between her and Soto-Vigil by only 58 votes in counting on Wednesday and Thursday. Soto-Vigil is likely to do better than Drake among provisional voters, so Drake is unlikely to overtake Soto-Vigil unless the remaining absentees are a lot more favorable to her. She was in the top four in the initial absentees, but slid to sixth place when votes cast at the polls were counted. 

Measures N and O – Pools 

There is little chance that either the bond measure or the parcel tax for the pools will achieve the required a two-thirds vote. At the end of election night, Measure N had 62.1% but, with the latest count, the measure is slightly further behind, at 62.0%. Measure O is even further behind with 59.5%. 

Alameda County Measure B1 –Transportation Sales Tax 

With the latest count, the measure now has 65.38% but needs two-thirds. This measure received the required two-thirds in all but one precinct in Berkeley (a District 6 hills precinct), and did well in most of Oakland so the more Berkeley and Oakland votes that remain to be counted, the better its chances. 

Mathematics, Marriage, and High Explosives: Why There Is No Nobel Prize for Math

by Jonathan David Farley, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 03:23:00 PM

The one Nobel Prize you won’t hear announced is for Mathematics―because, in contrast to Chemistry, Physics, and Literature, there is no Nobelity in Math. Rumor has it that it’s because of a sex scandal: Alfred Nobel’s wife had an affair with a mathematician. 

Which brings us to the most recent announcement of a Nobel Prize in Economics for Lloyd Shapley and Stanford professor Alvin Roth. No, Roth did not win the prize for inventing the Roth IRA. His first paper was in “lattice theory,” a branch of mathematics which, he told me in 2010, ties in with a lot of research in his field. He worries about how to form stable marriages. 

People like to think of mathematics as a cold, dispassionate subject, and of mathematicians as nerds or dweebs, forever losing the hand of their Beatrice to the captain of the football team (unless a time machine is involved). But, perhaps precisely because we spend so much time in the library on Friday nights, we think as much about love as the sonnet-writers of yore. 

One of my academic grandfathers, Philip Hall of Cambridge, proved a marvelous theorem about marriage. Suppose you have a bunch of men and women in a village, and you want to marry off all the women―presumably, assuming this village is not in India, to men that they already know. Can this always be done? Clearly not if there are more women than men. But even if there are more men, you might be unable to do it. For instance, you might have Alice and Beatrice, and Charles, David and Elijah, with Alice and Beatrice only knowing Charles. Two women, one guy, and this isn’t nineteenth-century Utah. But what Hall did find out was that if the women in any subset of the entire group of women collectively know at least the same number of men as there are women in the subset, it could be done. 

To avoid anyone’s being left standing by the wall in our waltz, suppose we have the same number of men as women―our village is not in China, either―and this time the women all rank the men, and the men rank the women. For instance, Frasier might prefer Diane to Lilith, so he ranks Diane “number 1” and Lilith “2”. 

You can’t always get what you want―unless you wrote a song with that title, in which case you can get approximately 4,000 of what you want―so Frasier might have to marry Lilith because Diane is with Sam.  

But getting married is only the half of it: what about staying married? 

What if Brad is married to Jen, but prefers Angelina, and Angelina is married to Billy, but prefers Brad? Then you have an unstable situation, because Brad and Angelina each prefer each other to their own spouses, and are likely to cheat. 

Is it at all possible to find a set of stable marriages for our village, so no two people who are not married to each other are tempted to cheat on their spouses with each other? RAND Corporation employee Lloyd Shapley, who should have been working on ways to keep the Soviets from overrunning western Europe, thought about the stability-of-marriage problem and proved that the answer was “Yes!” 

The Swedes honored Shapley and Roth this week for their mathematical work, because it has applications to how one can fairly assign medical doctors to hospitals and children to schools. But I think their work is important for other reasons too: if the prescription for stable marriages were known to the general public, programs like Jerry Springer and Maury would soon be off the air. 

Incidentally, remember that story about Alfred Nobel and why there’s no Nobel Prize for Math? Probably false, since Nobel himself never married

I guess he just never met the right mathematician. 


Dr. Jonathan David Farley is an Institute Researcher at the Research Institute for Mathematics (Maine).



Election Answers No Questions for Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley
Friday November 09, 2012 - 11:14:00 AM

Well, election day has come and gone, and have we learned anything?

One thing which we seem to have learned is that despite all the weeping and gnashing of teeth by certain parties, Americans seem to think that Barack Obama is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. That’s sort of a mandate: You have our permission not to screw up. Nothing wrong with that, but the guy’s still walking a tightrope.

The difference between 2008 and 2012 is that the penalty for trying something bolder is much less, thanks to term limits. Whatever he does, Obama will be out in four years, and that must feel like liberation.

Let’s hope he takes advantage of the opportunity and proposes trying something radical like—oh, I don’t know—taxing the rich. Dealing with immigration. Closing Guantanamo. Improving health care. Replacing No Child Left Behind with something better, not just more of the same. Pursuing a real Keynesian stimulus program instead of the watered-down imitation he tried in the first term. Spending the money on things we really need: not more school buildings, but more teachers. We all have lots of ideas about what he could do, don’t we?

Here in Berkeley, the situation is a bit different. The Mayor-for-Life, free from the nasty constraints imposed by term limits, has been re-elected by Berkeleyans who have a strong emotional investment in believing that—cue up the tune from Bernstein’s Candide—This is the Best of All Possible Worlds. In fact, all the incumbents were re-elected. No surprise—we love eating our organic lotuses, and we boast of having the best restaurants in the world to cook them up and serve them to us on silver platters .

Some fun has been made in other quarters of the headline in a local “news site” over a post-election insider interview with Bates: “Mayor Bates hails election as harbinger of change.” I’m not sure the headline writer didn’t have a certain ironic consciousness in writing that line—since by design not much is going to change under the new term won by the old regime. 

Passing Measure M, a deliberately vague bond issue which can and will be used to buy more of the same, was the satisfied citizen’s way of saying that all is well in his world—don’t bother me with the details, just send me the bill. Overtures by dissatisfied citizens to know more about what’s going on, Measures U and V, were soundly thrashed. And here another song that always pops into my head when writing about Berkeley should be cued: sung by one of the witches in The Wiz, “Don’t Nobody Never Bring Me No Bad News.” 

In fact, Bates and company seem not to have gotten the mandates for change that they’d hoped for in Measures S and T. There’s still a bit of excitement about what the final count will be. We’ve studiously avoided pseudo-scientific speculation based on incomplete data, but former Planning Commission Chair Rob Wrenn, who really knows his stuff, offers the best possible predictions at this point in time in this issue of what the outcome might be. 

It does look like a majority of those who cared enough to vote on Measure S, the anti-sitting ordinance, were not in favor of legislated change to already stringent penalties for being down and out on Berkeley sidewalks. This is not to say they opposed provision of adequate services to deal with obvious problems, they just didn’t buy the one-stop-shopping remedy proferred by the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA, often called the Downtown Business Association, even by its supporters) and put on the ballot by the mayor’s majority. 

Measure T, spot-zoning of a few large parcels in West Berkeley, is still on a knife’s edge as of this writing, but here too there was no rush to drink the kool-aid which the mayor was pouring on behalf of the big landholders. Even if T passes, it’s obvious that the council majority can expect the same stiff opposition to attempts to bypass public process in land use decisions that it’s already experienced from West Berkeley residents, artists and small manufacturers. 

For both of these measures, opponents did a bang-up job of getting the word out despite having much less cash to spend than the corporate proponents who poured in the cash. At least $110,000 was spent on behalf of Measure S, mostly by commercial property corporations, and it seems to have lost anyway, thanks to hard-working citizen volunteers who still believe in civil rights for all. 

The story that still needs to be told is how much each side in all the local elections spent, and the best way to present it is by highlighting how much was spent to buy each vote. We’ll need the final tallies to do this calculation, and it will be tedious arithmetic, but it will tell us a lot. 

In fact, we’re so eager to see this result that we’re offering a prize to the first person who produces it (according to our strict mathematical standards) after the votes have been officially counted. We’re offering the winner a $50 gift certificate to use at Sweet Adeline’s Bake Shop, a local business in the Lorin District which courageously displayed a No on S poster in their window. 

Which brings us to another sticky subject. There’s a long list of small businesses posted on the Yes on S web site who were conned into endorsing what the DBA thought was the politically correct position. Some of them seem not to have signed up—I checked with my friends at Bill’s Trading Post on College, who have supported good causes for years, and the boss lady whose name was used said she’d never agreed to have her business’s name used and that she didn’t support S at all. On the other hand, we asked a student intern to call some of the others who’d endorsed S, and they confirmed that they had indeed signed on with John Caner, DBA CEO.  

Personally, I’m getting tired of the DBA’s meaningless “Shop Local” push—not all local businesses represent what used to be called Right Livelihood. I’ll still patronize Bill at the Roxy Deli, and Bobby at Bobby G’s pizzeria, both of whom declined to support Measure S and do what they can to help their homeless neighbors. But Yes on S has provided me with a handy list of local businesses to boycott, and I’m going to use it. 

So, then, what did last Tuesday’s local election mean for Berkeley’s future? In the main there’s no point in trying to answer that question until all the votes are counted—the county clerk’s office hopes that will be before Thanksgiving. Stay tuned, watch this space, and keep on truckin’. 


Odd Bodkins: Take Five (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday November 09, 2012 - 12:50:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Don't Ask (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday November 09, 2012 - 01:03:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: President Obama's Victory and How It Helps Persons with Mental Illness

By Jack Bragen
Monday November 12, 2012 - 10:40:00 AM

The main reason why right-minded people dislike the Republicans is probably that Republicans are mean. Republicans don't care if other people who are not in the rich mean people's club experience suffering. Republicans don't care about helping their fellow human being unless there is something in it for them. They are willing to amass huge piles of wealth while others nearby are starving. They go to church every Sunday and get forgiven because they need to get some relief from the ever-present guilt of being nasty people. 

Of course there are exceptions to this. My sister is a Republican, and the family doesn't know what happened, but she's not a mean person. 

Mitt Romney, had he been elected, would have severely slashed or eliminated my Social Security check. Not only that, I could probably count on him slashing or eliminating my HUD rent subsidy. I would need to work full-time at a job with full medical benefits and with a decent wage in order to survive, something I haven't been able to do, except when I was in my early twenties. This is assuming I could even get employment, which is doubtful in this economy and with not being hireable due to obviously being mentally ill (the information is all over Google). 

If Romney had been elected, I would have had no means of support and no housing. This is beside the fact that Romney wanted to transfer Medicare to the states. California doesn't have money to pay for my Medicare, so I wouldn't get any-the ball would be dropped. Had Romney been elected, I might be vying for a begging spot on the nearest freeway off ramp. 

Because of the remaining republicans in Congress, we now have this "fiscal cliff," in which President Obama may be powerless over cuts that will automatically happen to programs for the poor and disabled. Yet, if President Obama wanted to veto any legislation, he would be able to do that without much chance of it being overridden. (Of course, the President's veto power is not applicable to the fiscal cliff, since it is part of a law that was already passed.) The Republicans in the House, if they want any cooperation from the President, should concede that they are in a position of less power and should be more flexible. 

At least President Obama tries to do the right thing. He hasn't been an enormously bold President, but that could be a good thing-sometimes a gentle touch is more effective. In his second term, President Obama may have tremendous opportunities to help disabled people. 

Obama's medical plan makes it possible for disabled people to become upwardly mobile. As it currently stands, disabled people, if they try to work, lose not only some of their cash disability benefits but can lose medical benefits. If a person with mental illness would like to work instead of receiving SSI, they must have a way to pay for their medication. In the positions where a person with mental illness can typically get hired, the employer doesn't pay for medical or dental. This means that we can only work a very limited amount. Hopefully, President Obama's medical plan will change that. It will make it possible for a person with mental illness to work their way up. 

One of the ways that President Obama can help persons with disabilities is to increase work incentives under Social Security. This can be done even if he is forced to cut entitlements. 

Cuts under Romney would have been devastatingly more severe and would have caused millions of disabled people who can't work to be homeless. Republicans don't care about the poor, or about anyone but themselves and their rich Republican buddies. 

Cuts to entitlements should not happen in the absence of increasing work incentives. Otherwise you are forcing a group of people into a corner and leaving them with no means of survival.

New: Vote ‘United for Community Radio’for the KPFA Local Station Board

By Akio Tanaka [KPFA LSB Member 2006-2012]
Wednesday November 14, 2012 - 08:04:00 PM

Current situation and background 

As long time observers know, there never seems to be peace at KPFA-Pacifica. 

After the 1999 Crisis, Pacifica reorganized with new bylaws which called for democratic governance by a board elected by the listeners and staff, both paid and unpaid. Immediately, a divide formed over the new governance. The current conflict is a continuation of this divide. 

The current conflict began with the layoffs in 2010, when the union accused Pacifica management of union busting and usurping local control. While it is the duty of the union to fight to save jobs, anyone who has seen KPFA’s annual audited financial reports can see that KPFA’s local management more than doubled the payroll during the boom years between 2000 and 2006, and then failed to make the necessary cuts when the economy collapsed and listener support plummeted between 2006 and 2010. The number of staff the station can afford to pay is directly tied to the level of listener support which in large part depends on the state of the economy. By 2010, the station was in danger of insolvency, which is the reason Pacifica stepped in. 

There have also been claims that the layoffs were political and did not follow the union contract, but the National Labor Relations Board has dismissed as ‘without merit’ all the complaints filed by the union regarding this matter. 

Underlying problems 

One major area of friction is programming. It stands to reason that a trade union looking after the financial security of its members will prefer programming which appeals to a more affluent, if progressive, audience. But the mission of Pacifica is to be the commons of the airwaves, to represent a broader and more diverse community, to include the voices of the voiceless and marginalized. 

Another area of friction is the working relationship between paid and unpaid staff. Until 1996 both were represented by one “industrial” union. In 1996 this was changed to a “craft” union that no longer represented the unpaid staff. This created a kind of a class system resulting in an uneasy working relationship between the paid and unpaid staff. 

Possible Solutions 

So what to do with these conflicting needs and interests? How does a union look after the financial security of its members in a non-profit organization that does not make profits and must live within a balanced budget? 

The primary task of the station should be to fulfill the mission of Pacifica. The management and union should carefully work out a paid staffing level that can be sustained during the economic ups and downs and avoid the temptation to add too many people during the economic boom times, as happened between 2000-2006. 

A stable paid staffing level would help remove the one main source of anxiety and tension. It would also end the practice of measuring the value of a program only by the amount of money it brings in, a sad and ironic state of affairs. 

Pacifica holds the unique position of giving a platform to the powerless and voiceless, as the union did at one time. While the notion of workers’ rights resonates to all within the progressive community, it must be remembered that it is to respect and honor ALL labor, not just paid labor. 

It is important to note that KPFA relies on a large number of unpaid staff; 75% of the programming is done by the unpaid staff. At KPFA there simply is not enough money to pay all those who contribute to the station. 

A progressive organization like KPFA should have one all inclusive union for everyone who works at the station. 

Bringing Peace to KPFA and Pacifica  

It is time for all the staff, paid and unpaid, and for listeners to embrace the democratic victory that was won for us in legal and street battles of 1999-2001 and by the people who formed the original “Save KPFA” in the mid-1990’s. KPFA was not sold out from under us, and thanks to their efforts, it never will be. It is time to bring peace to KPFA and Pacifica and help strengthen this priceless resource. 


‘United for Community Radio’ (UCR) coalition stands for: 

Community Resource - Reclaim the mission of Pacifica and KPFA as commons, with broad and diverse participation, not to be controlled by any particular group or party. 

Program Council - Programming decisions to be made in fair, collaborative, and respectful manner. 

Mutual Respect – Foster cooperation and equality for paid and unpaid staff. 


Please vote for the following ‘United for Community Radio’ candidates: 

Ramsés Téon Nichols - Organizing Committee Chair of Local SEIU Local 1021, SF Green Party 

Dr. Laurence Shoup – Historian, Author “Rulers and Rebels”, former Green Party candidate 

Karen Pickett - Earth First!, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Global Justice Ecology Project 

Andrea Pritchett - Incumbent board member, teacher, Copwatch founder 

Samsarah Morgan - Oakland Green Party, Occupy Oakland, writer on birth, health and family 

Dave Welsh - Labor organizer, delegate SF Labor Council, Haiti Action Committee, Occupy Oakland 

Oriana Saportas - Community & Labor activist, former KPFA Local Election Supervisor 

Kate Tanaka - Incumbent board member, anti-corporate stalwart 

Beth Seligman - Vegetarian occupier, permaculturist, writer, law degree 

Virginia Browning - Long time KPFA activist, former radio programmer 

[Staff candidates: David Landau, Frank Sterling, Joy Moore] 


UCR is endorsed by Carol Spooner, Gray Brechin, Michael Parente, Barbara Lubin, Peter Phillips, Jack Heyman, Clarence Thomas[ILWU], Robbie Osman and many more. 

See all the endorsers and our platform at www.votecommunityradio.org 



New: Winning Proposition 30

By Harry Brill
Saturday November 10, 2012 - 09:33:00 AM

What a joy to win the uphill battle on behalf of the California tax measure, Prop 30. The grass roots effort to win Prop 30 was immense. The Berkeley based Tax the Rich group which in alliance with The Wellstone Democratic Party encouraged hundreds of activists to reach thousands of likely voters. We organized a vigorous people's campaign, which was more effective than the tens of millions of dollars that the super-rich spent to defeat it. 

We leafleted regularly at Bart stations and other busy venues. During our weekly rallies on the streets of Solano Avenue we spoke to enormous number of people. Throughout the campaign huge numbers of window and lawn signs were distributed. We phone banked and some of our activists went door to door. And at meetings we attended voters were urged to support Prop 30 to improve the quality of schools for K-12 students and to deter further increases in tuition at higher education institutions. 

Other groups with a membership base, including the faith based PICO organization, did the same as we did. In California almost every previous initiative to raise taxes was defeated. So winning on Prop 30 was a major accomplishment for the 99 percent.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Top Ten Reasons Romney Lost

By Bob Burnett
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:12:00 PM

On November 6th Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney with 50.3 percent of the popular vote and a surprising 332 electoral votes. Here are the top ten reasons Romney tanked. 

10. He didn’t have Bill Clinton. Other than his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, Romney didn’t have an effective surrogate. Obama had Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, and Bill Clinton who commanded big crowds wherever he spoke. Romney didn’t use George W. Bush, who retreated to the Cayman Islands. 

9. Mitt was wildly unpopular in Massachusetts, his home state. Obama carried Massachusetts by 23 percentage points. Romney claimed to have been an effective Governor who practiced bipartisanship, but the word got around that he had been an arrogant, dogmatic prick. 

3. Romney blew his chance to score points on Benghazi. Republicans thought the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, would give Romney an opportunity to paint the President as weak on national security. But Romney flubbed his chance in the second debate. Obama recalled, “The day after the attack… I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people… that this was an act of terror.” Romney pounced, claiming the President had not called it “an act of terror.” But the debate moderator, CNN’s Candy Crowley agreed with the President’s recollection. 

4. He was branded as elite and out-of-touch. Before the Republican convention, Obama ran ads labeling Romney as a “vulture capitalist,” “part of the problem not the solution.” Then a tape was uncovered where Romney told donors, “47 percent of the people…who are victims…my job is not to worry about those people.” This strengthened core support for Obama. exit polls indicated on the attribute, “a candidate who cares about people like me,” Obama overwhelmed Romney. 

7. Women got wise to him. While the economy mattered to white female voters, it improved enough that they turned their attention to social issues: reproductive care, education, and healthcare, in general. They trusted Obama on these issues and came to believe he was the candidate that would do the most for the middle class. Women favored Obama by 55 percent and unmarried white women preferred him by 68 percent. 

8. He didn’t understand Hispanics. Romney’s strategy was predicated on massively carrying the white vote and he did secure 58 percent. But in certain areas of the country, particularly Florida, the Republican needed the votes of Hispanics and he didn’t get them because he was against the DREAM act and unwisely suggest “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants. 70 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama. 

4. The Economy recovered enough. After May, when Mitt Romney won enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination, he attacked the President for the state of the economy, “Obama isn’t working.” But the economy got better; thousands of new jobs were added and the unemployment rate declined from 8.5 percent to 7.9 percent. Romney’s campaign slogan shifted to, “Believe in America.” He said he had a “Five point plan,” to create jobs but Obama countered, “Romney has a one-point plan; make sure the folks at the top play by a different set of rules.” Towards the end of the campaign Romney quit talking about the economy. 

3. Romney told one too many lies. After securing the Republican nomination for President, Romney waged an exceedingly dishonest campaign. An independent fact-checker, Politifact, reported two-thirds of Romney’s statements ranged from “half-true” to blatant lies. The media didn’t report all of these falsehoods but a week before the election Mitt was caught running an extremely deceptive auto bailout ad that torpedoed his chances in Ohiuo. 

2. God intervened. Romney’s campaign for President was bracketed by hurricanes. First, Isaac threatened the Republican convention, and lowered the ratings, and then Sandy disrupted the campaign and gave Obama an opportunity to display his competency as commander-in-chief. As the result of Sandy, Obama got kudos from Republican Governor Chris Christie and an endorsement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Obama had already gained momentum, after a disastrous first debate, and his response to Sandy pushed him ahead in most polls. 

1. No Republican can win at the national level. A year ago, when the slate of Republican presidential candidates formed, it was Mitt Romney versus the “seven dwarfs:” Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Pawlenty, Perry, and Santorum. Romney struggled in the first primaries and had to turn on his money machine to defeat the others in the conclusive primaries. It was an indication that Romney was the best of a weak field and that Republicans were lukewarm about him. 

Romney had to tack to the right to secure his base and this turned off self-defined centrist voters. Obama overwhelmingly carried both liberal and centrist voters. The electorate has gotten wise to the Republican Party; they understand they are radical conservatives – out-of-touch with the middle class. Ultimately, that’s why Romney lost. It indicates that no Republican presidential candidate would have been electable. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: Will the Palestine Authority Seek Non-Member Status in the United Nations?

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:03:00 PM

In September 2011, President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, formally requested full United Nations membership for his as yet undefined country. The initiative developed during a two-year impasse in negotiations with Israel that followed the latter's refusal to freeze its settlement activities in the West Bank. The request failed because Palestine was unable to garner enough support in the UN Security Council, and faced strong opposition, including the threat of veto, from the United States. 

Now the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced plans to seek non-member state status in the UN, which would only require a majority vote of the members of the General Assembly. It would not need approval of the Security Council. There is every reason to believe that it would get majority approval. 

The PA presently has observer status, which gives it the right to speak at UN General Assembly meetings, participate in procedural votes, and to sponsor and sign resolutions, but not to vote on resolutions and other substantive matters. 

Non-member observers, on the other hand, are recognized as sovereign states. This would give the PA access to UN's institutions like the International Criminal Court, and, it would make clear that they are living under occupation, not in what Israelis sometimes call “disputed territory.” 

Why would the PA seeking non-member status? Because peace negotiations with Israel have been long stalled and Israel continues settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the PA considers illegal. For example, for the first time since 2005, new unauthorized outposts were established in the West Bank: “Nahalei Tal”, north-west of Ramallah, and “Tzofin North” (or “Tzofim North”), adjacent to the settlement of Tzofin, north of Qalqiliya. These are as opposed to the sporadic outposts that are created by the hill-top youth and evacuated every few weeks by the security forces, It is evident that the two new outposts are highly supported by the authorities. 

In addition, the economic and political conditions in Palestine have deteriorated, for which many Palestinians blame the PA. At most non-member status would be symbolic but it might calm the Palestinian populace. 

The U.S. and Israel will probably retaliate against the PA if it seeks non-member status. In fact, on November 6, 2012, Israel announced that it was pushing ahead with construction of more than 1,200 houses in two Jewish enclaves in East Jerusalem. This is an apparent warning to the PA to rethink asking for non-member status at the UN. 

Netanyahu began his tenure with the Bar Ilan Speech promising to promote the Two-State-Solution, and is now ending his term, after breaching almost all his promises. After the government rewarded the lawbreakers that built on private Palestinian lands in Migron and the Ulpana with alternative homes and other benefits, the government continues to make a mockery of the rule of law and to allow a radical minority to establish new outposts, which create facts on the ground that harm the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians. 

On November 1, 2012, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to return to the negotiations table and discuss the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. 

But consider that Israeli elections for the 120-member Knesset, or parliament, are set for January 2013. A Dahaf poll suggests that a new hawkish bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will win the most seats, with the centrist labor party behind it. The poll indicates that the more liberal, centrist Kadima party would not have any representatives in the Knesset, thus, creating a right-wing government less likely to engage in meaningful negotiations. 

Will the PA formally seek non-member status in the UN or will it be cowed by U.S. and Israeli threats of retaliation? By doing nothing, Israel will slowly take over the entire country and drive out the non-Jewish population.

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Epidemic of Sleep Apnea

By Jack Bragen
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:33:00 PM

One of the ways a person with mental illness might avoid a premature death is to keep up with their health. A part of this is to get a sleep study. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing during sleep is hindered by an obstruction in the airway. Researchers believe it can cause a whole slew of problems, including but not limited to depression and/or a worsening of other psychiatric conditions. 

Sleep apnea is not specifically in the domain of persons with mental illness-it is an illness that affects the mainstream population. However, persons with mental illness probably have a higher than average rate of sleep apnea. 

Problems with sleep apnea can range from a mild annoyance to a life-threatening condition. Persons with mental illness, because of being overweight, and because of being medicated, are more likely to have breathing problems while sleeping. 

Leaving it up to Mother Nature is unwise. There are numerous ways that a human being can die a premature death when leaving health issues up to Mother Nature. It is a fallacy that the human body somehow knows how to correct all of its inherent and acquired problems. It is up to intelligent discretion to decide which things in the body will self-correct, versus which things ought to be intervened upon. Do you want to live naturally, or live long? You can't necessarily do both. 

Modern human beings probably need more frequent medical intervention, in this generation in comparison to previous generations. This is partly because of the prevalence of fast food (as well as the general food supply being doctored up with sugar and fat), causes of stress in the environment, and genetic deterioration of the species. Also, in the past instead of the prevalence of medical help, people died more often. 

I am no fan of unnecessary medical treatments. If a person can get by okay without adding a drug or other treatment, they should. This is true partly because this generation of prescription drugs has a nasty passel of harmful side effects. Thus, taking a drug to solve one problem can bring about multiple other problems. 

If someone has sleep apnea which affects oxygen to the body, taking a sleeping pill will not only fail to address the problem, it could make the condition worse, and this can cause dire medical complications. 

Treating sleep apnea, if you have it, is one of those things of which you should not deprive yourself. Sleep apnea results in lack of oxygen to the brain while you attempt to get some sleep. The lack of oxygen that you're getting forces the heart to work much harder-sleep apnea can cause serious heart problems. The heart works very hard to compensate for the lack of breathing; this is because the human body is designed to try and protect your brain and other organs from damage due to lack of oxygen. 

I have heard of numerous persons with mental illness (some of whom I have met, others I have been told about) dying in their sleep or dying from heart problems. Death occurring in your sleep or caused by a weakened heart are two possible outcomes of severe sleep apnea. 

Sleep apnea entails repeatedly waking up during sleep due to the emergency of not getting enough air. People are often completely unaware of this until someone observes their sleep and tells them about it. Additionally, sleep apnea prevents REM sleep which means that you're not really getting enough rest. Once a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is introduced, the patient begins to feel a whole lot better while they are awake. 

The mild air pressure of the CPAP machine opens up the breathing passage that has collapsed while asleep. You are still breathing under your own power. However, your breathing is no longer stopped due to weight or due to obstruction in the airway. 

You might wonder if by using the CPAP, you will become dependent upon it, and will be stuck for the rest of your life sleeping with a breathing machine. However, on the contrary, I have read an article that said the CPAP functions as a splint. This means that the machine's beneficial effect is at work even when you are not hooked up; such as when you inadvertently, temporarily remove the mask in your sleep. 

The CPAP machine works to counteract the atmospheric pressure on the outside of the body and it also compensates for the effect of gravity, both of these are factors that make it harder to breathe at night. Oxygen to the body is improved, and so is the quality of sleep, which means that you will get more rest and you will not be deprived of oxygen. This will help you feel better. 

Sleep apnea, again, is somewhat more common among people with mental illness because our weight is usually higher, and we're dealing with the effects of sedating medication. 

The question, if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea is, are you going to evade treatment and qualify as a masochist, or go with treatment, and be a smart and healthy person? It is up to you. 

* * * 

I want to say thank you to those of you who have purchased my book on Amazon, titled "Jack Bragen's Essays On Mental Illness" which contains a year's worth of these columns. If you have any comments, I can be reached at bragenkjack@yahoo.com. Please inform me as to whether or not I can reprint your comments in the column. If so, I will change your name and identifying information unless you specify otherwise.

Arts & Events

New: Around & About Opera: Dazzling Divas Production of Cosi Fan Tutti at Berkeley Piano Club

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 14, 2012 - 08:57:00 PM

Cosi fan tutti, the charming Mozart/Da Ponte opera, will be presented for one night only, Friday November 30, by Dazzling Diva Productions, Jonathan Khuner (of Berkeley West Edge Opera) conducting, and Eliza O'Malley producing, directing--and singing the role of Floridiligi--at the Berkeley Piano Club. 

The cast also includes Sarita Cannon, Eric Coyne, Nikola Printz and Jonathan Smucker. 

Berkeley Piano Club is a choice but small venue--advance tickets are strongly advised: $15-$20 at brownpapertckets,com/event/287184 

Dazzling Divas info: 517-1820 

Berkeley Piano Club, 2724 Haste (between College and Piedmont)

Around & About Theater: Inferno Theater with a New 'Dracula' at South Berkeley Community Church

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday November 14, 2012 - 08:09:00 PM

Giulio Cesare Perrone, one of the most talented theater designers here, and formerly with both the Grotowski Institute in Italy and Dell'Arte Theater School at Blue Lake near Eureka, has written, directed and designed a new adaptation of 'Dracula,' one that plays up the power of suggestion, possession and somnambulism, for his Inferno Theatre, the European-style physical theater company that performed notably at the Berkeley City Club in Perrone's 'Galileo's Daughters' and 'The Iliad' the past two years. Inferno's a unique company in the Bay Area. 

In residence now at the extraordinary old Arts & Crafts-designed South Berkeley Community Church, near Shattuck in the Lorin neighborhood, Perrone directs Simone Bloch, Valentina Emeri, Paul Davis, Julia Ellis, AeJay Mitchell, Ilya Parizhsky, Christina Shonkwiler and Shana van Spronsen in a truly mobile enbemble piece that employs design, music (Norman Kern's, played by Cairo McCockran) and dance to bring across Dracula as the ultimate outsider, bent on controlling society--and how society's ability to overcome contagion. 

Thursday through Saturday, November 29-December 1, and Thursday through Sunday, December 6-16 (Thursadys-Sundays at 8, Fridays-Saturdays at 9),1803 Fairview, at Ellis, a block west of Shattuck--& southwest of the Ashby BART Station. $12-$25, sliding scale. 788-6415, infernotheatre.org 

New: Around & About Music: Neeman-Graber Duo Play at Berkeley Chamber Performances Tuesday

By Ken Bullock
Monday November 12, 2012 - 08:27:00 AM

Miles Graber, pianist, and Joe Neeman, violinist, will play Berkeley Chamber Performances second 20th anniversary season concert this Tuesday evening at 8 in the ballroom of the Berkeley City Club, with a program including Mozart's Sonata in D flat major, K454; Beethoven's Sonata in C minor, Opus 20, No. 2; Duo Concertante by Stravinsky; Estonian composer Avo Part's Fratres and Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski's Subito, written just before his death for Anne-Sofie Mutter. The concert will be followed by a complimentary wine and cheese reception for the audience to meet the artists.

2315 Durant Avenue, between Dana and Ellsworth. $25; students through high school, free; post-secondary school students, $12.50. 848-7800; berkeleychamberconcerts.org<

Fame High: When Tomorrow's Young Stars Go to Make the Grade--Plays one night: Sunday, November 11, 7:15 PM, Shattuck Theaters

By Gar Smith
Friday November 09, 2012 - 12:19:00 PM
Grace Song takes to the stage.
Carol Little
Grace Song takes to the stage.
Fame High director Scott Hamilton Kennedy.
Fame High director Scott Hamilton Kennedy.

At the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), "all the school's a stage." A proving ground for over-achievers and multi-taskers, LACHSA challenges a select community of teens to excel academically — researching essays, passing grueling tests — while leading parallel lives, honing their talents as singers, dancers, and actors. And the ground rules are clear: you may play piano like Thelonius Monk, but you aren't going to graduate if you can't make the grade in algebra. 


Directed by Academy Award nominee (and Bay Area filmmaker) Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Fame High follows the inevitable CompDoc formula, focusing on the challenges facing four charismatic individuals as they try to follow in the footsteps of previous LACHSA grads like singer Josh Grobin, actors Jenna Ellman and Corbin Bleu, and Matt Rushing, who is now a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey's American Dance theater. 

The tension begins with the first knuckle-gnawing auditions and, for those lucky enough to gain admission, the tension never lets up. 

Ruby is a red-haired scamp whose actor-dad is right by her side cheering her on and driving her to auditions. 

Zak is an earnest young pianist who suffers under the thumb of his domineering father who is determined to push his son to succeed as a jazz musician—whether he wants it or not. 

Brittany has the blond hair to go with the name but she's tall and long on talent, with a powerful voice and a songwriter's gift. When her drive to gain performing experience at local clubs (the LASHSA version of playing hooky), her mother (who has left the family behind in Wisconsin to support Brittany) is there to apply the reins and pass the Kleenex when emotions burst. 

And, finally, there's Grace Song, a beautiful and nimble young dancer whose strict Korean-American parents demand nothing short of success—and will not accept the idea that their daughter might be longing for a boyfriend. 

The kids are engaging and the stories are compelling. If there is an inherent problem with Fame High, it is simply the growing familiarity of the Compdoc format. After films like Mad Hot Ballroom and last year's First Position, two excellent films that helped define the CompDoc genre, it is no longer a surprise when a filmmaker unveils the latest pack of youngsters bless with enormous talent, laser-like drive, and the occasional soul-crushing abyss of self-doubt. 

Fame High's chosen few do well: Zak overcomes an academic set-back, Ruby is on her way to a stage career, Brittany moves to London to work with Paul McCartney, and Grace fulfills her parent's dream when she is accepted at Julliard School of Dance.

What's Up Doc? The SF Doc Fest Comes to Berkeley

By Gar Smith
Friday November 09, 2012 - 12:13:00 PM
San Quentin: Cruel and Unusual.
San Quentin: Cruel and Unusual.

In cinema, documentaries constitute the literature of life. And, on that basis, the latest, 11th edition of SF DocFest rolls into town like a bookmobile for the eyes. Pouring over this DocFest selections — an eclectic list of more than 50 domestic and foreign films set to light up screens in SF and Berkeley from November 8-21— leads one to wonder: What combination of talent and luck does it take to find and film the offbeat tales and oddball personalities that define these projects? While a gifted writer of can endow fictional characters with fatal foibles or superpowers, it would be hard to imagine a novel populated by characters as delightful and daft as some of the protagonists on display in this year's DocFest. 



DocFest is so cutting-edge, the organizers confessed, that some of the films (including Cruel and Unusual and Stolen Seas) were "still in the process of being edited" as the festival date approached. 

Founder Jeff Ross began DocFest in 1998 as a way to showcase a flick by his filmmaker friend Rand Alexander. Ross pulled together four days worth of screenings that drew more than 3,000 enthusiastic viewers. Last year, 21,000 DocFest viewers turned out "to support and celebrate maverick filmmakers and their work." 

"San Francisco filmmakers are strong in the documentary world," Ross explained before an October press screening at the Roxie (a local independent and nonprofit cinematic treasure). In addition to DocFest, IndieFest's hard-working staff of two also manage to grind out the International Short Film Festival, the Action Sports Film Festival and the ever-popular Another Hole in the Head film romp, which features a shameless onslaught of over-the-top, bleeding-from-all-wounds cinema. 

Asked about the possibility of taking the viewing experience online, Ross bristled. "I'm opposed to live-streaming," he said. "I still believe films should be a shared experience. Stand in line, buy some popcorn, then talk about it with friends afterwards. We encourage people to turn off their computers and join us in the theatre." 

"We don't look for any particular categories: we look for diversity," Ross noted. Out of the 50-plus films in the 2012 collection, only two come close to touching on the same topic. "I have only one regret," Ross admitted. "There are no 'animal docs.' Last year we had The World's Ugliest Dog Contest." 

IndieFest screenings are invaluable for independent filmmakers whose work would remain largely unseen except for these quirky annual festivals—and the exposure pays off for the filmmakers and for the public. Ross noted with some pride that, "a lot of our docs eventually resurface in Netflix. A good DocFest review has saved great docs from obscurity and has even led to theatrical releases." 

IndieFest 2012 got underway in San Francisco with an Opening Night Gala on November 8 but, beginning on Saturday 10, the documentary cavalcade crosses the bay and settles into the Shattuck theaters for a six-day run featuring 14 of the festival's top crowd pleasers. 

Here is a list of the films to be screened, along with brief descriptions provided by the IndieFest crew. 

Saturday, November 10 

A Girl Like Her (5 PM) 

An affecting and timely account of unwed mothers in the 50s and 60s, most of whom were coerced to have their babies in secret maternity homes and surrender them for adoption. Director Fessler uses a light hand with the subject, compiling vintage footage to augment simply told stories by the women themselves. The resulting narrative is a moving record of the pressure to be a "good girl" in Atomic Age society, even at the cost of losing a child. 

Co-presented by A Better Way (www.abetterwayinc.net) and PACT (www.pactadopt.org). 


The Standbys (7:15 PM) 

Every night on Broadway, dozens of the best performers aren't on stage. They are backstage, standing by, ready to go on at a moment's notice." The Standbys follows a variety of undiscovered performers for several years through their ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, onstage performances and private lives. When these Standbys are finally given the chance of a lifetime, anything can—and does—happen. 


Glow (9:30 PM) 

In 1986, the TV show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) was the answer to the male-dominated World Wrestling Federation. Complete with elaborate characters, costumes, skits, and of course, wrestling, by 1989 the GLOW girls were an international phenomenon, attracting over 7 million viewers worldwide. One year later, it was gone. Follow the rise and fall of this once successful television show through the stories of those who lived it in this fascinating documentary. 


Sunday, November 11 

The World Before Her (5 PM) 

Weaving together the seemingly opposing stories of the Miss India beauty pageant and a fundamentalist Hindu camp for girls, director Nisha Pahuja illuminates the situation of women across contemporary India, drawing surprising parallels in the way women are perceived and the opportunities that are afforded them in both modernizing and traditional cultures. The World Before Her is a riveting, thoughtful profile of the fundamental contradictions of a country in transition. 


Fame High (7:15 PM) 

See Planet review. 


Global Home (9:30 PM) 

What took a British environmental activist to the West Bank? What is a Brazilian dancer doing in provincial Turkey? They're users of SF-based Couchsurf.com. When filmmaker Eva Stotz found out about couch-surfing, she had to know more about this online community providing a free place to sleep anywhere in the world—and an opportunity to meaningfully connect after just a few emails. Her thoughtful film shares that experience in gorgeous locations in Japan, Turkey, Mali and beyond. 


Monday, November 12 

Cruel and Unusual (7:15 PM) 

Approaching its 20th anniversary, California's infamous Three Strikes Law is re-examined in this local doc, which highlights the stories of three individuals who received life sentences after crimes such as shoplifting, writing a bad check, and famously taking a piece of pizza from a group of kids. The law's proponents say violent crime is down, while detractors point to the massive expense and inhumane prison crowding. What's the real cost of Three Strikes? 

Co-presented by Oakland Underground Film Festival (www.oakuff.org). 


Without A Net (9:30 PM) 

Djeferson, Bárbara, Rayana and Platini live in a drug-controlled slum of Rio de Janeiro. Their families are struggling, their homes are physically unstable, and everyone they know has dropped out of school. When a big-top circus tent suddenly appears in a nearby parking lot, they decide to take a chance. They learn trapeze, acrobatics, juggling and contortion, then audition for the end-of-year show. Without a Net explores the connection between risk, desire, poverty and circus, and celebrates the perseverance and resilience of youth in the face of tremendous odds. Director Kelly Richardson lives in Cole Valley, and graduated with honors from UC Berkeley. 


Tuesday, November 13 

The Final Member (7:15 PM) 

Sigurdur Hjartarson created the world's first Phallogical Museum 40 years ago in Iceland. He has collected penile specimens from most every mammal to display in his unusual gallery over the years except one: the human male. This quirky and wildly entertaining film documents Hjartarson's hilarious, and surprisingly heartrending, quest to add the elusive "final member" to his collection, and the two eccentric men—one Icelandic, one American—competing to have their manhood forever preserved in the formaldehyde-filled jars of history. 


Ballroom Dancer (9:30 PM) 

Former Ballroom star Slavik wants a comeback. After winning the World Championship in Latin Dance, his ex-partner (and ex-girlfriend) Joanna moved on to a new partner and brilliant career, and now Slavik has something to prove. But, at 34, the grueling and image-conscious world of competitive ballroom is taking its toll on Slavik—and his relationship with new partner Anna. From the pressure-cooker of competition to the privacy of hotel rooms, the camera catches every smoldering look and dramatic spin. 




Wednesday, November 14 

Ping Pong (7:15 PM) 

A competition doc with a spin, Ping Pong follows four amazing characters on their way to the World Over-80s Table Tennis Championships: Terry, 81, given just a week to live, gets in sight of winning gold; Inge, 89, used table tennis to train her way out of the dementia ward; Australian legend Dorothy deLow, 100, finds herself a mega-celebrity in this rarefied world; and Texan Lisa Modlich, a newcomer at 85, is determined to do whatever it takes to win her first gold. 


Ann Richards' Texas (9:30 PM) 

Soothe post-election angst with the breathtakingly badass Ann Richards, perhaps the best contribution Texas ever made to democracy. A feisty straight-talking West Texas girl, Richards was a hippie housewife who traded late nights with Willie Nelson for a beehive hair-do, famously zingy one-liners, and uphill battles to better the lives of her beloved Texans—before a stunning loss to neophyte George W. Bush. Her legend is discussed by fans Dolly Parton, Bill Clinton, Lily Tomlin, Willie Nelson, Tom Brokaw, and many more. 


Thursday, November 15 

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet (7:15 PM) 

In 1991, Jason Becker was on his way to guitar-god status, tapped to play for David Lee Roth at just 19. Then, the diagnosis: what he called a "lazy limp" in his leg was ALS (AKA Lou Gehrig's Disease). Jason would not go on tour, and might not have 5 years left to live. But two decades later, Jason's still here, making music. It is a story of dreams, love, and the strength of the human spirit. Winner of the Audience Award at Cinequest. 


Big Boys Gone Bananas (9:30 PM) 

Once upon a time, there was a documentary called "Bananas," about conditions at a Dole-owned banana plantation in Nicaragua. But this is not that movie. This movie is about what happened after Dole decided it was going to squash "Bananas"—by any means necessary. What follows is a story that's both incredibly thrilling and deeply inspiring, as filmmaker Gertten makes the decision to fight the Dole company… and document the whole thing, of course. 

Co-presented by Bay Area Video Coalition (www.bavc.org), CounterCorp Film Festival (www.countercorp.org), Oakland Underground Film Festival (www.oakuff.org) and SF Green Film Festival (www.greenfilmfest.org). 


General Information about DocFest 

SF DocFest, presented by the SF IndieFest, opened at Terra Gallery on November 8, and runs November 9-21, 2012 at both screens at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco and November 9-15 at the Shattuck Theater in Berkeley. A complete schedule of film, with trailers, is available online at www.indie.com. Advanced tickets can also be purchased online. 

Around & About Theater: Golden Thread's ReOrient Festival—Plays from & About the Middle East

By Ken Bullock
Friday November 09, 2012 - 12:25:00 PM

Torange Yeghiazarian's Golden Thread Productions is in the midst of staging its annual ReOrient festival of contemporary plays from and about the Middle East. One of the most important theatrical companies in the Bay Area—or anywhere in North America—Golden Thread brings top quality collaborators to bear on a double string of short plays of immediate importance. 

This month—through November 18th—ReOrient plays out two series, and a Forum with other events attached, some for free, at two locations a few steps from each other, parts of Project Artaud in SF's Mission-Potrero. 

Series A, Six Short Plays—all, excepting the first, are world premieres: "War & Peace," a comic, allegorical play by Egypt's leading playwright, Tawliya al-Hakim, directed by Hafiz Karmali; "The Birds Flew In,' by acclaimed Egyptian-American playwright Yussef al-Guindi, about the losses of a mother of an Iraq War soldier, directed by Evren Odcikin; "The Letter," by Mona Mansour & Tala Manassa, directed by Sara Razavi, on the refusal of CUNY to grant an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner over his criticism of Israel; "Stalemate," by Saroyan prizewinner Silva Sererciyan, directed by Desdemona Chiang, from a disco/record shop in London to a battlefield in Iraq; "In the Days That Follow,' by Jen Silverman, directed by Christine Young, about a male ex-Israeli soldier following a Lebanese female poet to America; '2012,' by Farzan Favrokhi, directed by Sara Razavi—Three strangers on cell phones walk into a cafe ... A joke or the end of the world? 

Series A will play Thursdays-Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 7, at Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa, near Bryant. $15-$20. 

Series B, Four Short Plays, includes MacArthur Award-winner Naomi Wallace's 'City of Grubs,' directed by Desdemona Chiang, about an Arab-Jewish immigrant, who, discovering a dead man in the fleabag New Jersey hotel he cleans, tells the corpse his innermost secrets (US premiere)—followed by three world premieres: "Orhan," E. H. Benedict, directed by Evren Odcikin, of a half-British, half-Turkish man jailed for terrorism; "Stuck," by Amir al-Azraki, directed by Torange Yeghiazarian: What does it take to get out of Iraq with an Iraqi passport?; and "The Voice Room," by Reza Soroor directed by Torange Yeghiazarian—a novice secret agent is sent to spy on a guerilla band presided over by a prize catch.  

Series B will play November 16 & 17, Friday & Saturday at 8, at Z Space, 450 Florida (near 17th & Bryant). $15-$20. 

In addition, next weekend is the Forum at Z Space, with other events: the Forum itself, with keynote address by Columbia Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Comparative Literature Hamid Dabashi & panels on questions of the Arab Spring and art, "Comic Counter-Terrorism," & others; playwright Yussef al-Guindi in conversation, followed by a staged reading of his play, 'The Mummy & the Revolution,' Saturday the 17th at 2:30 (FREE); Hafiz karmali's acclaimed "Rumi X 7," seven tales from the great Persian poet's Masnavi in a vaudeville format, Sunday the 18th at 2 ($15-$20)—and the closing party, Sunday the 18th at 7, reception with music by Iranian-American saxophonist—a great jazzman!—Hafez Modirzadeh with his band ($20-$30). 

(415) 626-4061; goldenthread.org 

It's a Festival with great variety, great purpose—and a great heart. I urge all to attend—& enjoy!

Berkeley Unified's ex-Superintendent Tells All

Friday November 09, 2012 - 07:42:00 AM

Editior's Note: Who knew? Berkeley Unified School District's ex-Superintendent Jack McLaughlin has written a roman-a-clef about Our Town (but no competition with Thornton Wilder, I imagine.) For the full details, here's the press release we got from the "supported self-publishing provider:" 

Author Reveals the Inner Spirit of Berkeley, Calif. 

Jack McLaughlin pens new installment in trilogy centered around Berkeley culture, influence. 

CARSON CITY, Nev. (PRWEB) November 09, 2012  

Author Jack McLaughlin invites readers to experiences the colorful citizens of Berkeley, Calif., their issues and attitudes in his new novel, “mR. bERZERKELEY II: Big Games, Big Lies, Big Decisions” (published by iUniverse), the second installment in his latest trilogy. 

“I wanted to create a series that expresses my love for Berkeley, Berkeley citizens, Berkeley institutions, Berkeley lore, Berkeley mythology and memories of the sixties and provides insights into situations and conflicts faced by a multitude of individuals in a humorous, light-read atmosphere,” McLaughlin explains.  

In this lighthearted spoof, McLaughlin brings the 1960s into the 20th century. His story centers around a mythical, naked mayor and a cadre of fictitious boarding-house characters embroiled in political, controversial, sexual, mysterious conflicts.  

A cartoonist, a naïve freshman, a reformed prostitute, lesbian lovers, a sarcastic cook, the deformed son of a university bigwig and a Kansas politician react to the naked mayor’s antics and life in Berkeley, providing a deeper glance into situations many have faced.  

“mR. bERZERKELEY II” offers readers a cheerful view of the world that may differ from their own in this time of fiscal, political, religious and international crises. McLaughlin’s series brings together outrageous characters in edgy situations and lets the reader experience fantasies and freedoms unavailable to most in real life.  

About the Author
Jack McLaughlin worked as a public school superintendant[sic] for 33 years and received many honors, including the 1999 American Association of School Administrators California Superintendant [sic] of the Year. His 17-year residence in Berkeley, involvement in all aspects of their political landscape, knowledge of all racial, ethnic and sexual preference issues and intimate knowledge of Berkeley’s fabric serve as the foundation for the books in his mR. bERZERKELEY series. He is also the author of “mR. bERZERKELEY: The Naked Mayor of Berkeley” and “The POLAR Principle.”

iUniverse, an Author Solutions, Inc. self-publishing imprint, is the leading book marketing, editorial services, and supported self-publishing provider. iUniverse has a strategic alliance with Indigo Books & Music, Inc. in Canada, and titles accepted into the iUniverse Rising Star program are featured in a special collection on BarnesandNoble.com. iUniverse recognizes excellence in book publishing through the Star, Reader’s Choice, Rising Star and Editor’s Choice designations—self-publishing’s only such awards program. Headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, iUniverse also operates offices in Indianapolis. For more information or to publish a book, please visit iuniverse.com or call 1-800-AUTHORS. For the latest, follow @iuniversebooks on Twitter. 

Anyone who'd like to try their hand at a review should call and ask for a copy.

Around & About Theater: Aurora Opens Wilder Nights; Ram Das 'Acid Test' at the Marsh—& a Few Richards: 'Richard the First' at Central Works & Actors Ensemble of Berkeley's 'Richard III'

By Ken Bullock
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 03:45:00 PM

—Aurora's opening a selection of Thornton Wilder's one-acts (Thursday, November 8 through December 9), directed by founding Artistic Director Barbara Oliver: "Infancy" (1962), "Childhood" ('62), "The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden" (1931) and "The Long Christmas Dinner" ('31)—the latter, his most famous one-act, with its time-lapse view of human lifetimes through a family feast, may've been part inspiration for Orson Welles' famous montage of a marriage at the breakfast table, failing over the years, in 'Citizen Kane.' It was made into an opera by Paul Hindemith. 

Wilder, most famous for 'Our Town' (and for 'The Skin of Our Teeth,' as well as the screenplay for Hitchcock's 'Shadow of a Doubt,' and 'The Matchmaker,' from Johann Nestroy, whence springeth 'Hello, Dolly!") is often misrepresented as sugar-coated or Pollyanna-ish.Nothing could be further from the truth, as the second half of 'Our Town,' shows, emphasized in Jonathan Moscone's production at Berkeley Rep a few years back: the starkness of the effects of mortality, of the basic questions of the human condition, is etched sharply against the gestures in the foreground towards folk and populist sentiments, revealing the unspoken collective and individual doubts and fears in positive-thinking small town America. 

And, like elements of the one-acts, it is a small revolution in dramaturgy and staging. 

Friend of Gertrude Stein, acquaintance and translator of Sartre, mentor to Edward Albee, Wilder was an international figure—his plays are presented all over the world, his novels an object of university study. 

The Aurora cast includes Heather Gordon, Gwen Kingston, Soren Oliver, Marcia Pizzo, Stacy Ross, Patrick Duvall and Brian Tryson. 

Tuesday through Sunday (different times), through December 9. 2081 Addison (near Shattuck). $32-$50. 843-4822; auroratheatre.org

Around & About Music & Theater: International Operas at SF World Music Festival--including Free Shows

By Ken Bullock
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:11:00 PM

The San Francisco World Music Festival is celebrating its 13th year, and this weekend at the SF JCC there will be an extraordinary run of opera, or operatic forms, from around the world, including early Italian opera (Monteverdi) and Chinese opera, just to name two of the more familiar forms. 

On Friday, there will be a Korean P'ansori performance, often called Korean opera, one of the great and unique musical theater (and poetic storytelling) forms in the world, very much in miniature: the performance consists solely of a drummer backing a performer who chants, sings, dances, acts out the tale--and only five of these epics have survived in performance from the 18th century--using just a fan and a handkerchief as props--one of the five surviving stories, 'Shimcheonga,' "Shimcheong [a young girl] offering herself in sacrifice to the Dragon King of the Sea" (but a happy end is promised!), will be played in highlights ... featured with a Tibetan opera, 'Nangsa,' in Lhammo form, influenced by Chinese opera & Indian theater and dating back 1500 years. 

Saturday will feature a famous Azeri opera, 'Layla Majnun,' from Azerbaijan, the 12th century story of a beautiful girl and her lover, who retreats to the wilderness in madness, celebrated by great poets all over the Middle East and Central Asia, This version's from the 16th century Azeri poet Fizuli, composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyor, premiering in Baku in 1908, in traditional mugham style, with European instruments and staging. With 'Layla Majnun' will be the Beijing opera, 'The Yang Family Generals,' a fantastic piece about female generals and their adventures in this theatrical form that deeply influenced modern geniuses of European theater like Brecht and Meyerhold.  

On Sunday, a South Indian piece with Carnatic music, 'Nauka Charitram,' "a boat ride reverie downriver" with Lord Krishna and his maidens, by Tyagaraja, 18th century composer ... And Monteverdi's great 'L'Orfeo,' at the origins of the European operatic tradition.  

Each night features excerpts from the operas, traditional music, an integrated global orchestra and the Festival Youth Orchestra, Sunday night--FREE for seniors and children under 12--will have a full orchestra flourish for the end of the Festival. 

(In addition, this Thursday night, a FREE showing of the documentary 'Intangible Asset No. 82,' an Australian drummer's search for an elusive Korean shaman-musician, with the two P'ansori perfromers in attendance.) 

Thursday (film only) through Saturday at 8, Sunday at 7, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3400 California Street (at Presidio), $17-$30 (Festival passes: $54-$89), (415) 292-1233; sfworldmusicfestival.org

Review: Mort Sahl on the Debates & the State of Things

By Ken Bullock
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:37:00 PM

Minutes after the third and last Presidential debate- the one on foreign policy--was over on TV, Mort Sahl came onstage at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley and opened his show by quipping: "What was the argument? Who is the best friend of the Jewish people! ... Either one of them would make a splendid prime minister of Israel. ... When he visited Israel, Obama went to the Holocaust Museum first. And Romney claims to be an intimate of Netanyahu. Romney wants to do what? Buy those countries in the Middle East--and consolidate them!" 

Ribbing the audience as if he were a wayward anchorman, Sahl commented, "If you tuned in late, Obama's from Chicago [a dry chortle] where he was a community worker who quickly moved up to the White House. And Romney's from the Caymans--last seen making a deposit!" 

Sahl, now 85, won his spurs as America's premier political satirist in stand-up in 1953, when he hit the stage at the hungry i in San Francisco's North Beach, wearing a red V-neck sweater in an age of "charcoal grey suits, because modern science has been searching for a color more somber than black," and carrying a newspaper, talking familiarly to an audience about the headlines. He became the first comedian to record a live comedy album--and win a Grammy--the first to make the cover of Time magazine, the first to appear on college campuses.  

Sahl's lived in Mill Valley for the last couple of years, after a lifetime in the Los Angeles area, declaring the Bay Area has always brought him luck. His show at the Throckmorton, where he presents movies and comments on them or drops in when younger comedians host showcases, seemed to be his only performance during the final heat of the campaign.  

Performing for well over an hour, easing fast observations about the current state of affairs in with longer stories, intercut with his signature asides, Sahl demonstrated his classic style, what could have been seen almost anytime over the past three or four decades with a few names and references switched around, leavened with a wry gag or two about not being able to jump around the stage so much anymore--or how a stroke he had a few years back "made me more kindly!" 

Joking about the role of religion in Presidential campaigns, Sahl recalled JFK's line: "It's not the Hereafter that bothers me, it's November 6th!" A little bit later, JFK was replaced as "the only Catholic ... by Jerry Brown--still a novitiate!" Speaking of Romney's pioneer Mormon lineage, he mentioned Brigham Young, declaring from the lead of the wagon train when it came to Salt Lake, " 'This Is the Place!'--and a couple dissidents a few wagons back said, 'But we're only an hour from LA!' " Denying Mormonism to be a cult, Sahl said Scientology was one, and that he was "so lonely at night, I'd join it--like guilt on the installment plan!" 

A few of Sahl's stories recalled his abrupt switch in career, when his participation in New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's independent investigation into the JFK assassination led to a drop-off in club and theatrical bookings--Sahl, who Variety had named top paid solo performer, saw his income fall in one year from $400,000 to under $20,000. He then became a Hollywood script consultant and ghost and additional dialogue writer. But even these tales of the glitter business quickly came back around to social comment: "I'm still a writer at heart. And I have an idea for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Bruce Willis--an 'Expendables' kind of thing--they're not going to wait for Social Security, but work for a living instead! A heist, where they break into Fort Knox--and Ron Paul is there, saying, 'I told you there was no gold here!' " 

And hearkening back to speech writing jobs he took, from JFK to Reagan, Sahl quipped that Obama's staff had called him for ideas when the President went to Cairo--and Sahl suggested "Have him say Moses was an Egyptian!" 

(Lifting a jibe he used on Reagan and redirecting it to the current Republican candidate, Sahl declared lately: "Washington couldn't tell a lie, Nixon couldn't tell the truth--and Romney can't tell the difference!") 

At one point during the show, Sahl jibed: "Obabma's trying to pass himself off as a liberal because he thinks it sells!" 

At an appearance a few years back, Sahl was asked where he fit in on the political spectrum. He answered immediately: "I'm an old Berkeley radical, not a Social Democrat, with avarice in their heart, talking about loving Humanity, unless it's from Haiti or someplace else that's unfashionable."  

That "obstinate rigor," as Leonardo Da Vinci called it, informed every quip Sahl tossed off during the genial and fluent course of his show.  

As he said, "Everything I tell you is true. But this is actual!" 

(142throckmortontheatre.com --For more Mort Sahl oneliners: twitter.com/mortsahlsays ... For the Planet's interview with Sahl three years ago: berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2009-07-23/article/33402headline+Mort-Sahl-and-Dick-Gregory-at SF-s-Rrazz-Room-By-Ken Bullock-Special-to-the-Planet )

Around & About Music: Esa-Pekka Salonen Residency at UC

By Ken Bullock
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:09:00 PM

Matias Tarnopolsky of Cal Performances has initiated a series of residencies here with major orchestras and conductors--and this month, there are two, the first with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the London Philharmonia this weekend ... and later this month with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. 

Salonen, who stepped down from the podium of the LA Philharmonic (where one of his assistants was Joana Carneiro, now of Berkeley Symphony) to pursue his own composing, will be featured in a Composer's Profile at Hertz hall tonight at 8, works of his played by pianist Gloria Cheng (Dichotomie, composed for her), UC's eco Ensemble (Mania, a cello and ensemble piece) and the Calder Quartet (who just played brilliantly for the Nancarrow Centennial here last weekend: Salonen's sole string quartet, Homunculus). $42 & up. 

With the Philharmonia, Salonen will conduct his own Helix, Beethoven's 7th Symphony and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (Friday at 8; Tarnopolsky in conversation with Salonen at 7); Berg's opera Wozzeck (with Johan Reuter in the title role and Angela Denoke as Marie), Saturday at 7; and on Sunday at 3, Mahler's 9th. All at Zellerbach Hall, tickets from $30-$150.  

In addition, there will be a Department of Music-hosted conversation with Salonen, Saturday morning from 10:30-12 at 125 Morrison, as well as Salonen conducting an open rehearsal of the UC Berkeley Symphony, Sunday, 5:30-7:30, Hertz Hall ... both Free to the public. Other events and discussions, plus tickets & information: 642-9988; calperfs.berkeley.edu

New: Julia Morgan “Town and Gown” Architectural Tour This Sunday

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday November 13, 2012 - 10:29:00 PM
Girton Hall, a rustic Arts and Crafts lodge on the UC Berkeley campus built as a gathering place for women students and now used for childcare, was designed by Julia Morgan a century ago and will be featured on the November 18 architectural tour.
Steven Finacom
Girton Hall, a rustic Arts and Crafts lodge on the UC Berkeley campus built as a gathering place for women students and now used for childcare, was designed by Julia Morgan a century ago and will be featured on the November 18 architectural tour.
The monumental Berkeley City Club, often known as Julia Morgan’s “Little Castle”, stands on Durant Avenue and will be on the tour.   It’s shown here in a 1930s aerial view.
The monumental Berkeley City Club, often known as Julia Morgan’s “Little Castle”, stands on Durant Avenue and will be on the tour. It’s shown here in a 1930s aerial view.

Locals have the opportunity to look at some of the most interesting design work of famed architect Julia Morgan on a tour this coming Sunday, November 18, 2012. Organized by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) the afternoon tour takes in ten buildings, including all the structures designed by Morgan standing on the UC Berkeley campus, the elaborate Berkeley City Club, and three off-campus houses Morgan designed as private homes which are now used as student living groups. 

The self-guided tour costs $25 for the general public, and $20 for BAHA members (you can join BAHA on the day of the tour to get the discount). Tickets are for sale on line, and also on the day of the tour, starting at 11:30 at the BAHA headquarters on 2318 Durant Avenue, between Ellsworth and Dana. 

The tour itself runs from noon to four PM for most of the buildings. Tour-goers go at their own pace and route, with a guidebook and map describing the houses and their history. All the buildings are within a few blocks walking distance of each other on or near the southeast corner of the UC Berkeley campus. 

Off-campus, the City Club—which stands across the street from the BAHA headquarters on Durant—will be open for tour goers with its own volunteer docents. Three large homes, two on Piedmont and one on Bancroft, are also featured, including one where the Morgan touch is hidden behind a 1960s façade addition. The Bancroft Hotel, designed as the College Women’s Club by Morgan protégé Walter Steilberg, is also included on the tour. 

On campus, the tour includes the Hearst Memorial Gymnasium which Morgan designed in conjunction with Bernard Maybeck, Girton Hall (Senior Women’s Hall) for which she donated plans just over a century ago, and 2232 Piedmont, originally a private home later purchased by the University and now used for academic offices. 

Morgan graduated from the University of California in 1894 with a degree in Civil Engineering (there was not yet a formal architecture program at the time). She became the first woman to enroll, and earn a certificate, at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris. After completing that degree she returned to California where she worked on campus projects, then began her own design practice. Ultimately she would design some 700 buildings throughout the State and the western United States, and also become the favored architect of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. 

Morgan grew up in Oakland and lived in San Francisco as an adult, but had close ties to Berkeley both as a student, and during her design career. She designed many private homes and institutional buildings in Berkeley. 

The tour also ties in with an exhibit on Julia Morgan organized by the Environmental Design Archives, currently on display in the Environmental Design Library in Wurster Hall on campus, which will be open on Sunday. Finally, tour-goers are invited back to the BAHA headquarters for cookies and an opportunity to shop in the BAHA bookshop. 

The local tour ties in with a statewide celebration of Morgan, called Julia Morgan 2012, organized by the California Cultural and Historic Endowment. It was organized with the help of several departments and offices at UC Berkeley as well as the Berkeley City Club and Landmark Heritage Foundation. 

For more details, see the BAHA website at http://www.berkeleyheritage.com/ 

You can still purchase tickets online. It’s too late to order them by mailed in-reservation, but you can come on the morning of the tour, 11:30 or after, and purchase them directly at 2318 Durant Avenue. 

Steven Finacom is the Vice President of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, and worked on organizing the tour.

Berkeley's Historic Post Office is NOT FOR SALE!

Margot Smith
Monday November 12, 2012 - 10:29:00 AM

Protest on Wednesday, Nov 14 at 11:30 at the Berkeley Post Office, 2000 Allston Street

Comment at the United States Post Office Public Hearing TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20th, 2012 @ 7:00 PM Florence Schwimley Little Theater Berkeley High School 1980 Alston Way, Berkeley 

Soon the downtown Berkeley Post Office is going to be offered for sale by the United States Postal Service, which supposedly is in a very serious financial situation and facing insolvency. However, our Berkeley Post Office is an historic building built in 1915 with murals by well-known artists funded under the New Deal by the Works Progress Administration. Instead of using this Berkeley landmark, the postal service will pay a high rent in the downtown area for a lesser space. 

Many Berkeley citizens are opposed to the sale of the historic post office building. The building was paid for by our taxes, and many think that the building should be offered to the city for $1, as is required by some preservation law. Despite USPS claims, it will not be cheaper to rent a downtown location for the postal service. The figures regarding USPS solvency are in question. www.savethepostoffice.com can be reached at admin@savethepostoffice.com. 

On Wednesday, November 14th, rally at the Post Office at 2000 Alston Street, Berkeley and march to Constitution Plaza on Shattuck to oppose the sale. 

On November 20th, come to a public meeting where the USPS will explain the proposal and hear comments on the post office building sale. The hearing will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 20, 2012, at the Berkeley Public High School Florence Schwimly Little Theater, 1980 Allston Way in the High School Auditorium. Representatives of the USPS and Berkeley will be present. Be sure to be there! 

Written comments are also being accepted until December 7, 2012. Please submit written comments to: 

Diana Alvarado Facilities Implementation – Pacific Area U.S. Postal Service 1300 Evans Ave. Ste. 200 San Francisco CA 94188-8200 

The Postal Service pleads financial necessity in its decision to sell the Berkeley Downtown Post office and other historic central post offices around the country. In fact, Congress has fed the USPS several poison pills to assure its insolvency and thus turn its Constitutionally mandated public service over to the private sector. 

Moreover, the USPS last July negotiated an exclusive contract with the giant commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis to market the public's property and to advise it which post offices to sell. It is a real estate portfolio worth billions, and it includes a national gallery of public art paid for and owned by American citizens. CBRE is chaired and effectively owned by Richard C. Blum, a UC Regent and the private equity billionaire husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein. 

CONTACT Dave Welsh, 510-847-8657, sub@sonic.net SavetheBerkeleyPostOffice.com 

Citizens to Save the Berkeley Post Office Berkeley, CA

Press Release: "Saints & Prophets" Return to Berkeley Council Supporting Homeless Youth Services Leveraging Proposal on Tuesday Agenda

From Sally Hindman
Sunday November 11, 2012 - 01:10:00 PM

Ten saints & prophets (giant puppets) representing diverse faith traditions including St. Martin des Porres, Our Lady of Guadelupe, Rabbi Hillel, Gandhi and others will be escorting formerly homeless youth leaders from Berkeley's Youth Spirit Artworks as they hold an interfaith prayer circle supporting their proposal to leverage existing homeless youth services to create a day time space for homeless youth. The Tuesday night event will take place at 6pm at Maudelle Shirek Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, Berkeley. 

The fiscally prudent $50,000 proposal would move and expand a successful S. Berkeley homeless youth jobs program so that it can be available to serve youth in need from Telegraph & Shattuck Avenue. It would be linked to existing case management and shelter services, and is being championed by Council Member Max Anderson. The proposal will be considered at the City Council meeting Tuesday night beginning at 7pm. 

This initiative seeks to to provide a positive first step addressing the challenge of homeless youth on Berkeley sidewalks, since the more punitive Measure S, "no sitting" law lost in Tuesdays elections. Berkeley currently has almost no services for homeless youth and lacks an indoor space where youth can go during the day.