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Flash: High Winds Topple Trees, Power Lines, Causing Blackouts and Accidents

By Bay City News
Thursday November 21, 2013 - 10:21:00 PM

High winds are bringing down trees and power lines throughout the Bay Area tonight, blocking roads and causing accidents and several major blackouts.

At 10:45 p.m., PG&E reported 35 outage locations in Berkeley affecting 7559 customers. 

A wind advisory was issued this afternoon by the National Weather Service for areas including the hills, valleys and coastal areas in the North Bay and the hills and valleys of Alameda and Contra Costa counties and coastal San Mateo County, weather service forecaster Roger Gass said. 

The advisory is expected to be in effect until at least Friday morning with winds of between 20 and 35 mph are expected in some areas, and gusts of up to 45 mph possible in the valleys. 

In elevations higher than 900 feet, Gass said, gusts could be between 45 and 69 mph. 

Large swaths of the North Bay are without power tonight, including 7,000 in the Monte Rio area, 6,200 in the Santa Rosa area, 5,600 around the city of Sonoma, 1,700 near Bodega Bay and nearly 1,600 around Glen Ellen, according to PG&E's website. 

Alameda and Contra Costa counties are experiencing major outages as well, including more than 18,000 in Oakland, more than 1,200 in downtown Danville, more than 4,770 in San Leandro, nearly 1,600 in Castro Valley and 1,400 in Hayward, according to PG&E. 

The California Highway Patrol has issued wind advisories for the San Mateo, Benicia and Carquinez bridges and is advising motorists to use caution. 

One tree blocked all northbound lanes of northbound Interstate Highway 238 on the edge of San Leandro after falling on a car at 6:24 p.m., according to the CHP. 

Several cars struck the downed tree before the highway was closed by the CHP. It was entirely closed for about an hour before one lane was opened to traffic. 

The CHP is also advising motorists to watch out for trees on several Oakland highways, including on Interstate Highway 580 at Fruitvale Avenue as well as near the Central Reservoir and at state Highway 24 near 51st Street. 

Another tree came down in the Rockridge area of Oakland in the 5700 block of Keith Avenue near the Broadway exit to Highway 24 and brought power lines down with it, Oakland police said. 

Residents in the area were asked to shelter indoors, Lt. Chris Bolton said tonight. 

A tree also fell on a car driving on U.S. Highway 101 in Petaluma earlier, blocking traffic and injuring an occupant of the car, the CHP said. 

The red Honda was driving north on the highway approaching the East Washington Street offramp when the tree fell on the car, the CHP said. 

The accident blocked one lane of the highway and responders called for a chainsaw to get the tree off the Honda, the CHP said. 

Initial reports said that one occupant of the car may have suffered a back injury in the crash and an ambulance was called to the scene, the CHP said. 

The collision scene also blocked the Lakeville Highway onramp to Highway 101, the CHP said. 

Even BART has reported 10-minute delays along its aboveground tracks because of the continued strong winds.

Press Release: Berkeley Fair Campaigns Practices Commission To Consider Alleged Campaign Law Breaches by Berkeley Democratic Club and Yes on S Tonight

By Patricia Wall and Bob Offer-Westort (No on S campaign)
Thursday November 21, 2013 - 10:12:00 AM

The Yes on Measure S campaign and Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC), founded in 1934, are facing serious questions about alleged violations of state and local campaign finance laws. On July 12, 2013, the Berkeley Fair Campaign Practices Commission (FCPC) received a complaint against BDC alleging violations of the Berkeley Election Reform Act (BERA) and state election law, including failure to file expense reports for false and misleading campaign materials that were distributed by homeless people during the November 2012 election cycle.

The BDC Political Action Committee spent a total of $26,781 in the November 2012 election cycle to produce a Berkeley-wide mailer and literature to be distributed at the polls, according to California filing records. While the BDC filed with the California Secretary of State, it failed to file with the City of Berkeley Clerk’s Office, as is required by BERA. A search of campaign filings in Berkeley shows that, despite actively expending funds in the last several election cycles, the BDC stopped filing with the City after August of 2010 and began filing under much looser requirements with the State of California. 

The BDC was an avid proponent of the measure (Measure S) that would have criminalized sitting on a city sidewalk. The measure failed to pass. In campaigning for Measure S, the BDC paid for and distributed campaign literature that falsely claimed to be the “official endorsements of the Democratic Party.” In fact, the Alameda County Democratic Party did not support Measure S. In several instances, the BDC also endorsed candidates that competed with those actually endorsed by the Democratic Party. BDC’s false and misleading literature prompted a letter of reprimand from the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.  

Written testimony that will be presented at the meeting shows that on Election Day the BDC hired numerous homeless or formerly homeless people to pass out their fraudulent literature at polling places in Berkeley. Many if not all of the homeless people passing out the campaign materials were current or former clients of a Berkeley drug and alcohol treatment center, Options Recovery Services, Inc. Eyewitness accounts state that Dr. Davida Coady, the Medical Director of Options and a spokesperson for the Measure S campaign, recruited the clients and John Caner, the CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association, coordinated the distribution efforts. The testimony further noted that these clients were paid between $50 and $100 in cash by Mr. Caner to participate in election-day activities, but these payments were not disclosed to the city or state. Cash payments of over $50 are prohibited under BERA. 

“Hiring the homeless clients of a recovery program to campaign for their own criminalization is the opposite of harm reduction. Berkeley’s vulnerable populations deserve better,” said Patricia Wall, director of Berkeley’s Homeless Action Center.  

Yes on S’s and BDC’s failure to report its expenses – namely, printing false and misleading campaign literature and paying homeless people to distribute said literature – effectively kept from public view who gave money to the committee and BDC or how they spent that money. Either group’s violations could result in substantial fines and penalties from the FCPC. Concurrently, the Associated Students of the University of California Senate is considering a bill denouncing their groups’ tactics in the 2012 election. 

Berkeley’s Deputy City Attorney Kristy van Herick, in a staff memorandum to the commission, writes that “[The Yes on S Committee] has acknowledged the cash payments and filing errors or omissions, and has filed an amended Form 460 statement. However, the cash expenditures cannot be corrected through an amendment. BERA's restrictions against cash expenditures have been in place since 1974 ... Even if the committee had not been aware of the BERA limitation, most of the cash expenditures also violated state law's restriction against cash expenditures of $100 or more.” 

The 2012 election in Berkeley saw an unprecedented amount of money infiltrate numerous local campaigns, largely from political action committees and corporate interests. Earlier this year, the Fair Campaigns Practices Commission issued the second largest fine in Berkeley history against the landlord-backed, so-called Tenants United for Fairness (TUFF) Slate Mailer Organization (SMO). Recently, the California Fair Political Practices Commission issued a warning letter to the East Bay Rental Housing Association PAC for failure to disclose an expenditure of $12,000 in support of the TUFF SMO. The Berkeley Democratic Club was the only Democratic organization in Alameda County to endorse Measure S and the TUFF Rent Board slate. 

When: Thursday, November 21, 2013, starting at 7:00 PM 

Where: North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave, Berkeley, CA (Look for “Fair Campaign Practices Commission” or “FCPC” signs) 

For more information on the Fair Campaigns Practices Commission and staff report regarding the Berkeley Democratic Club: 


For more information on the Fair Campaigns Practice Commission stipulation with the Tenants United for Fairness Slate Mailer Organization: 


For more information on the California Fair Political Practices Commission warning letter to the East Bay Rental Housing Association Political Action Committee: 


New: Judge Declines to Block Planned Eviction of Homeless Campers from Albany Bulb

By Julia Cheever (BCN)
Monday November 18, 2013 - 08:35:00 PM

A federal judge in San Francisco today turned down a bid by 10 homeless people to block the city of Albany's plan to evict them and others living on a bayside landfill known as the "Bulb."

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said in a one-page ruling that the homeless people and a nonprofit group that joined them in the case had "failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits" of their lawsuit, which was filed last week.

The ruling came two hours after Breyer completed hearing arguments on the request by the 10 individuals and Albany Housing Advocates.

About 60 people are now living in tents and structures at 40-acre tip of the landfill, according to the lawsuit. The site juts out into San Francisco Bay near the Golden Gate Fields horseracing track.

Last May, the Albany City Council voted to begin enforcing a no-camping ordinance there in October. The city has not yet begun evictions, but on Oct. 21, the council approved a $570,000 transition plan that includes assistance and temporary shelter for the Bulb residents and cleanup of the campsites.

The plan also includes completion of a transfer of the site to the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.  

The 10 homeless plaintiffs, who say they are mentally or physically disabled, contend the removal would violate their federal constitutional rights and also transgress the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act by allegedly failing to accommodate their needs in the transitional shelter.  

Toussaint Bailey, a lawyer for the city, told Breyer during the hearing that Albany is concerned about the health and safety of the homeless campers, as well as warnings from state regulatory agencies about contamination at the site. 

Breyer did not announce his ruling at the hearing, but suggested in his comments that he was unlikely to block the evictions.  

He indicated that he didn't agree with plaintiffs' argument that the eviction would subject the plaintiffs to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment and questioned attorney Maureen Sheehy about whether the campers had requested specific accommodations in the transitional housing.  

"I look at it in a snapshot of what exists today. As of today, you haven't made any requests" for accommodations, he told Sheehy.

New: Allen-Taylor Wins PEN Award

Monday November 18, 2013 - 02:17:00 PM
J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

The PEN Oakland writers organization announced this week that Oakland-native journalist, political-social columnist and novelist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor is the winner of the group's Reginald Lockett Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award this year for Allen-Taylor's "gadfly writings exposing the hypocrises and errors of Bay Area politicians."

Presentation of the award will be made at the PEN Oakland Literary Awards ceremony at Oakland's Rockridge Branch Library on Saturday, December 7, from 2-5 p.m. Also being honored at the Rockridge Library PEN Oakland event are writers Toni Morrison, Andrew Lam, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Lucille Lang Day, journalist Chris Hedges, poet Tim Seibles, and editors Denise M. Sandoval and Christopher Wagstaff.

Allen-Taylor said of receiving the Reginald Lockett Award that "it's a tremendous and humbling honor any time you are recognized by fellow members of your craft," and added that "but being listed anytime, anywhere on a program alongside Toni Morrison's name is pretty much beyond words to describe."

The Reginald Lockett Award is named for the Oakland poet and educator who passed away in 2008. Lockett and Oakland-based novelist and essayist Ishmael Reed co-founded PEN Oakland in 1989 as an affiliate of the international PEN organizations of novelists, essayists, and poets. Dubbed the "Blue-Collar PEN" by The New York Times, PEN Oakland's self-proclaimed "unique purpose is to promote works of excellence by writers of all cultural and racial backgrounds and to educate both the public and the media as to the nature of multi-cultural work." 

Oakland-based novelist and essayist Ishmael Reed, who founded PEN Oakland in 1989, memorialized Allen-Taylor as a "brilliant columnist" in Reed's 2003 non-fiction book on Oakland, "Blues City." 

Allen-Taylor began his career in journalism writing and editing for African-American Freedom Movement newsletters and newspapers in the Bay Area in the 1960's, continuing that work when he moved to South Carolina in the early 1970's. Since returning to the Bay Area in the late 1980's, he has written for such Bay Area newspapers as Metro of San Jose, The East Bay Express, The Oakland Post, Oakland Local, and the now-defunct Urban View, all of Oakland, The Berkeley Daily Planet, Bay View of San Francisco, and such national magazines as Color Lines and Race, Poverty & The Environment. His journalistic writings have already been the subject of numerous awards from such organizations as the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Peninsula Press Club, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, and the California Teachers Association. 

In 1998, Allen-Taylor wrote a series of investigative articles for Metro newspaper in San Jose that helped lead to the first disbanding of a Civil Grand Jury in the history of California. In 2010, Allen-Taylor founded the Anybody But Perata website that contributed to the defeat of former State Senator Don Perata in that year's race for mayor of Oakland. 

Allen-Taylor's first novel, Sugaree Rising, was released late last year by Freedom Publishers of San Francisco. The novel was inspired by the decline of South Carolina's Gullah/Geechee culture as well as the forced relocation of close to a thousand South Carolina African-American families during the 1930's Great Depression by a government rural electrification flooding project.

Updated: Rosie the Riveter Visitors' Center Shows How Kids Played During World War II

By Stevanne Auerbach, PhD
Monday November 18, 2013 - 07:11:00 PM
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach

During 1941-1945, Richmond, and the surrounding East Bay, was the hub for a mighty war effort that included construction of tanks, ships, jeeps, and housing, distribution of supplies, plus many innovations in medical care and child care. Many thousands of men and women worked in the area during those years while the entire country was engaged in the fight. 

What remains today is the Rosie The Riveter/ World War II Home Front National Historical Park, which includes a Visitor Education Center and museum, a memorial honoring the patriotic efforts made by women, and more exhibits to come starting in April 2014, and all at an easily accessible location with an unsurpassed view of the Bay. A temporary exhibit (open until the end of March) titled “Kids in WWII: Imagination & Reality” has been installed at the Visitor Education Center. The exhibit opening was delayed from October 12th due to the government shutdown. 

The exhibit features objects from both the Park’s collection and private collectors. Visitors can see vintage children’s toys, uniforms, games, model airplanes, clothes, magazines, and books from the 1940s and focuses on what children played with. 

The exhibit was a joint collaboration among Veronica Rodriguez, Museum Curator, Lucien Sonder, Outreach Specialist, National Park Service, and two private collectors, Ed Von der Porten and Brad Bunnin, who were children during the WWII years. While visiting you may be fortunate to attend a lecture or tour provided by Betty Reid Soskin, 92, who shares her rich history as the oldest Park Ranger in the US Government, and who experienced those years as a young woman living in Richmond. 

The idea for the new exhibit came from the realization that children were largely missing from the displays. Given that WWII was an “all-out” war, even small children were greatly affected by the upheaval on the home front caused by the war. 

The exhibit is meant to “give a specific view of what the war years were like for children–how it affected what they played with, how it touched their imaginations, and how children were personally able to contribute to the war effort.” 

Children were deeply affected by and involved in the war effort throughout WWII. This included saying goodbye to a father in the military to collecting scrap after school as all children felt the impact of the war in their daily lives. 

On Saturday, November 16, as the new children’s toy exhibit opened, the collectors spoke at the Museum theatre and presented their own methods and motivations for collecting. 

The first speaker, Mr. Ed Von der Porten, retired history teacher, former Director, Treasure Island Museum, and avid private collector, covered his memorabilia of objects and posters previously displayed at the Fresno Museum (now closed) and at other locations. 

Mr. Brad Bunnin, retired lawyer, collector, and a volunteer docent with the Park, shared his collection and said, "We were all kids, once upon a time. But childhood, and the toys we played with and learned from, are very different today. Mostly, we depended on muscle power and imagination, not batteries and electronic displays! “Our Kids” exhibit, which shows a broad sample of the toys, games, and clothes, illustrates that point." 

The exhibit consists of cases, photographs, and text that allow the toys on display to speak for themselves. 

Each case focuses on a particular theme including changes in materials used to make toys (due to the war effort) such as cardboard, composition, metal, paper, plastic, and wood; how war related toys were marketed differently to young girls and boys; ways in which children directly contributed to the war effort (collecting foil, fats and metals); how the war impacted the popular hobby of model building (children created their own planes from cereal boxes, paper and wood); and war related toys that mimic real life such as child-sized replicas of uniforms and guns. 

The exhibit also features candid photographs from several volunteers that capture the children and toys of that era. 

Books, games, and toys of the time reflected the reality kids had to face, and at the same time, provided an escape into a more secure fantasy world. 

The exhibit will remind some visitors of their own childhood playtime. Many visitors recalled their toys, favorite radio programs, planting “Victory Gardens,” food rationing, and collecting needed supplies like metal, fat, and tin foil. 

There is an area for visitors to write down the “toys played with as children” and to post their remembrances. Others too young to remember the war years will be able to see what their parents and grandparents played with. 

The Park’s gift shop is stocked with a nice selection of reproduced toys, books, and games for visitors to purchase as holiday gifts for themselves and others. You can find T-shirts of Rosie exclaiming “We can do it!” and “We did it!” 

The Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center, next to Craneway Pavilion and adjoining a new restaurant, Assemble, is open seven days a week between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and is located at 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000, Richmond, CA 94804. 

For more information and directions to the Center, please call 510-232-5050 or visit http://www.nps.gov/rori 

There is no charge for admission, which also offers many exhibits, information panels, and a short film. 

If you would like to receive information about upcoming Park events, visit www.rosietheriveter.org and sign up for the newsletter. The Rosie the Riveter Trust is the nonprofit association building a community of support for the Park. 

Some additional resources 

Toys Go to War, by Jack Matthews (Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1994); World War II for Kids, by Richard Panchyk (Chicago Review Books, 2002); and Welcome to Molly's World - 1944, the American Girls Collection (Pleasant Company Publications, 1999). 

Stevanne Auerbach recalls her own childhood during those years playing with clothespin dolls, making handmade doll houses, playing games, pretending to be Wonder Woman, listening to the radio, especially “Captain Marvel,” and using the highly prized decoder badge to decipher messages revealed at the end of each episode like “Drink more Ovaltine.” She also recalls FDR’s “Fireside Chats”. She is the author of Smart Play/Smart Toys, Toys for a Lifetime, and The Toy Chest. See Dr.Toy’s Guide, www.drtoy.com.



In Berkeley and Everywhere, Citizen Input on Planning Decisions Counts for Nothing

By Becky O'Malley
Monday November 18, 2013 - 05:45:00 PM

Sorting through a huge pile of file boxes this week, detritus accumulated in 40 years of living in one Berkeley house, pursuing three careers encompassing several jobs, and closing three office locations from businesses I managed, I’ve come to the conclusion that citizens are not running the show almost anywhere these days, if indeed they ever did. In particular, I found a truly staggering volume of paper produced by various civic entities which purported to be making decisions relevant to the way public business is conducted—and realized that most of those so-called decisions were bypassed by the civil servants who were supposed to be executing them.

We the People, as our brothers and sisters in the Tea Party wing of the OMG movement would say, don’t count for much in the long run. While I think the Partiers are wrong about almost everything that they’d like to do, their perception that no one’s paying much attention is grounded in observable reality.

In evidence, I offer the reams of paper copies I’m throwing out which I got during almost 8 years on the Landmark Preservation Commission. Most of what we talked about, most of what we “decided”, just never happened, or at least didn’t happen the way the materials we received promised. 

In the pile there was a big fancy promotional piece produced by an architect (or at least a promoter) still working Berkeley today, for the “Seagate” building, on a historic block in downtown Berkeley, which languished for years and years under a succession of owners, and is now, finally, being promoted for high-rent pads for—whom? Techies who’ll BART into SF? It is, in any event, nothing like the glossy promo piece I have in my files, and it pays little respect to its historic neighbors. 

And how about those turtles? That would be the ones which were supposed to end up in the fountain in the variously named Civic Center/Provo/Martin Luther King park between the old and the new City Hall buildings. In endless LPC meetings on the topic of refurbishing the park (known primarily to generations of Berkeley High students as the place to smoke dope during lunch period) a central focus was what was going to happen to the landmarked fountain. As I remember, it was a relic of the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island, and had once featured some sort of dancing lights, now long dead. In the 60s or 70s a promise was made by someone to someone else that it would become an hommage to some indigenous people who once lived somewhere around here—I think. For some reason this idea got mixed up with turtles, which in my mind were associated with the “turtles all the way down” stories. 

[Digression: one of the perks of this “job” is the chance to search out odd bits of miscellany on Wikipedia when an idea occurs to me. The entry on the turtles is especially delicious: “ ‘Turtles all the way down’ is a jocular expression of the infinite regress problem in cosmology posed by the "unmoved mover" paradox. The phrase was popularized by Stephen Hawking in 1988. The "turtle" metaphor in the anecdote represents a popular notion of a "primitive cosmological myth", namely the flat earth supported on the back of a World Turtle.” 

Hawking’s version is fine, but the best one, quoted in the entry, is the one from linguist (and Chinese food maven) Haj Ross’s Ph.D. thesis: 

'After a lecture on cosmology and the structure of the solar system, William James was accosted by a little old lady.
"Your theory that the sun is the centre of the solar system, and the earth is a ball which rotates around it has a very convincing ring to it, Mr. James, but it's wrong. I've got a better theory," said the little old lady.
"And what is that, madam?" Inquired James politely.
"That we live on a crust of earth which is on the back of a giant turtle,"
Not wishing to demolish this absurd little theory by bringing to bear the masses of scientific evidence he had at his command, James decided to gently dissuade his opponent by making her see some of the inadequacies of her position.
"If your theory is correct, madam," he asked, "what does this turtle stand on?"
"You're a very clever man, Mr. James, and that's a very good question," replied the little old lady, "but I have an answer to it. And it is this: The first turtle stands on the back of a second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly under him."
"But what does this second turtle stand on?" persisted James patiently.
To this the little old lady crowed triumphantly. "It's no use, Mr. James---it's turtles all the way down." 

—J. R. Ross, Constraints on Variables in Syntax 1967”

Pretty much all I remember from the LPC discussion of improvements to the fountain is this: it was supposed to, somehow, incorporate those turtles. How and why used up hours, days, months of commission and staff time, and yet—as of the last Saturday farmers’ market that I patronized—there are still no turtles there. Rumor has it that four fine cast bronze turtles now live somewhere in the basement of City Hall, never to see the light of day in the fountain. 

And how about Plans: General, Downtown, West Berkeley and the rest? When I was in law school my Local Government professor said disdainfully “Don’t worry about plans, no one ever follows them anyway.” My classmate (a Berkeley local activist at the time) and I were infuriated by that statement, but you know what? The professor was right. 

Since then I’ve participated in the “successful” multi-year effort by many, many citizens to overturn the staff draft for Berkeley’s last General Plan, watched (thanks to Planet reporter Richard Brenneman) the labors of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee, and observed the way the city of Berkeley honored the decisions of the citizen-spearheaded West Berkeley Plan. All of these, each in its own way, too tedious to detail here, was sabotaged in turn by city staff and elected officials in thrall to the major developers who funded their campaigns. 

These are just the tip of a very large iceberg. 

One more case in point: what’s going on at the old U.C. Theater on University? It was supposed to open in 2010, but it’s still boarded up, and my bet is that some developer somewhere actually has condos for techies on the drawing board for the site, the same ones that were proposed before the building was landmarked in 2002 in order to save it from demolition. 

Time and tide may wait for no man, but deep pocket developers and their stooges in city government can sit out a lot of dances before waltzing to the bank. Citizens with no financial stake in outcomes, on the other hand, count for approximately bubkes when it comes to enforcing public decisions. 





The Editor's Back Fence


Odd Bodkins: Prayer (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Monday November 18, 2013 - 08:27:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Iran Negotiations

By Jagjit Singh
Friday November 15, 2013 - 09:48:00 AM

The American people are growing tired of Prime Minister Netanyahu's frequent outbursts attempting to derail US efforts in reaching a peaceful accord with Iran. For the sake of fairness, is it not time for the international community to demand that Israel open its own nuclear stockpile for inspection and insist that Israel follow Iran’s example of signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

It is outrageous that France has opposed U.S efforts in its blatant self-serving interests to appease Saudi Arabia and thereby win lucrative nuclear power contracts. It also time we displayed a modicum of humility and contrition for our own dark deeds.  

In 1953 the CIA orchestrated a coup ousting the highly popular democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, and ushered in the autocratic regime of the Shah of Iran whose secret police terrorized, tortured and killed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens. During the Iraq-Iran war we supplied chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein who used them to slaughter thousands of Iranians and Kurds.  

We have never apologized or offered reparations to Iran for enabling war crimes to be committed.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Global Climate Change: A Blow to the Head

By Bob Burnett
Friday November 15, 2013 - 06:15:00 PM

As evidence mounts that global climate change is dramatically impacting our lives, resistance hardens. What will cause Americans to address this grave danger? Perhaps the answer lies in the campaign to reduce traumatic head injuries in American football. 

Both global climate change and football head injuries are controversial. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence, there are many climate change deniers. In fact, denial is so heavily funded that it has stymied meaningful congressional action. Meanwhile, mainstream American lifestyle remains dependent upon consumption of carbon-based fuels: coal, natural gas, and petroleum. Americans suspect that rising temperatures and radical weather are caused by carbon consumption, but we are loath to change our behavior. 

Americans are also addicted to football, our most popular sport. The 32 National Football League (NFL) teams are the the most profitable in professional sports. Although American football has always been a violent sport, it wasn’t until recently that fans realized football causes traumatic brain injuries. There’s mounting evidence that many retired professional football players suffer from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease also found in boxers. This past August, the NFL reached a tentative $765 million settlement with 18,000 retired players over their concussion-related brain injuries. The multi-million dollar settlement and a flood of CTE publicity led to calls to either abandon American football or to radically change its format – for example by banning participation by athletes under the age of 18. But football is so popular, and so lucrative, the sport has resisted attempts to alter its format. 

In both global climate change and football, there are humongous financial forces pitted against public safety. What might tip the balance towards the common good? 

Malcolm Gladwell’s classic book, The Tipping Point examines the ways in which emerging social phenomena mimic the growth of epidemics. Gladwell postulates three rules for successful trends: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context. 

The law of the few is seen in the spread of new fashion, where a few early adopters of a particular style can affect a national shift in consciousness. For Global Climate Change, national awareness was shifted by Al Gore’s book and movie, An Inconvenient truth. With regards to football-related traumatic brain injuries, many sports fans became aware of CTE when famous retired football players such as Tony Dorsett and Jim McMahon joined the lawsuit against the NFL. 

Stickiness is the unique quality of a trend that enables it to grab hold of the public. Gladwell notes the slogan, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should,” convinced American smokers they should switch to a filtered cigarette, specifically Winston. For many Americans Al Gore made the “sticky” link between global climate change and extreme weather. Similarly, horrific stories of football players mental deterioration after retirement, such as that of hall-of-fame Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster established the sticky link between repeated blows to the head and CTE. 

But not every trend is successful. Gladwell acknowledged the role of context: if the timing is not right, the trend will stall. Americans are aware of global climate change but it’s not high on our list of national priorities – unless there’s a major weather event that impacts us. Similarly, the public is aware of CTE but there’s no groundswell to dramatically change American football. 

Money, used for contra advertising, can alter the context. Huge amounts of money have been spent to diffuse momentum that might have caused global climate change or traumatic football injuries to reach the tipping point. Climate-change deniers have planted a seed of doubt that there is a connection between climate change and extreme weather. The NFL has argued that CTE is an isolated phenomenon and the league is taking prudent steps to reduce the number of concussions. 

For both issues to move forward, the context needs to be altered. Many believe that the increasing prevalence of violent storms will be sufficient to shift opinion on global climate change. Similarly, as more evidence becomes available about CTE this may change opinion about football. But this shift may take a long time. In the intervening period, millions of people will be impacted by global climate change and thousands of men incapacitated by CTE. 

But, in both cases, the context could be shifted by the insurance industry. It cannot have escaped the notice of insurers that low-lying regions such as New Orleans or the Jersey Shore are increasingly susceptible to flooding from storms. Similarly, insurers must be aware of the increased number of concussions in high-school sports. If insurance companies raise premiums for homeowners or football programs , this will shift public opinion. 

In the long run, public sentiment about global climate change and football will be changed by the gradual accumulation of information. However, in the short term, insurance companies can provide the tipping point. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Relationships Revisited

By Jack Bragen
Friday November 15, 2013 - 09:45:00 AM

People who don't have a romantic partner might complain about being lonely. And after finding someone, they may then complain some more, about the problems posed by the relationship. When you embark on a relationship with a partner you might be exchanging one set of problems for another. 

Romantic type relationships, including cases of unreciprocated attraction, invoke some of the strongest emotions that people normally experience. Jealousy is one of these--and it is not the prettiest one. 

When someone suffers from a severe mental illness and then gets into treatment, handling the emotions, the demands, and the responsibilities of a romantic relationship can be overwhelming. If someone with mental illness is emotionally underdeveloped in that area and isn't quite ready to handle a relationship, it doesn't mean that the person will not seek a relationship. 

Seeking or going into a relationship when unready can be destabilizing--for people who initially are just trying to keep themselves intact. 

Over the past thirty years I have been in some relationships that have gone south. Some of the situations didn't work because they weren't mutual, while others were with someone unstable, while still others were with people in a different place than I in their development, either farther along or less far along. Thus, when I met the person who would become my wife, I had some amount of experience under my belt, as did she. We ultimately both realized that we were and are right for each other. 

Not that my present situation is without problems. However, we are both willing to work at it. I believe I am reasonable and am dealing with someone else who is reasonable. And we have some amount of "chemistry" which is part of the glue that holds us together. 

I would say that if you can not behave decently and fairly toward someone, you are not ready for a lasting relationship. Part of this includes acknowledging mistakes. Part of it includes forgiving for someone else's mistakes. Part of being in a relationship is the willingness to compromise. Yet you do not have to be a human doormat. 

To behave oneself, a person must have some amount of mastery over that lizard brain, the primitive part of the brain which lies underneath the cerebral cortex. If you don't have that, then you are doomed to be controlled by immature instincts. Since becoming mentally ill, nearly all of the relationships I've had have been with other people with mental illness. This is both good and bad. It poses problems because I am dealing with my mental illness and the symptoms of the other person. However, the good thing is that my disability can be understood--and it is not a source of inequality. If you are dealing with someone mean and nasty, someone who is addicted to illicit drugs or alcohol, or someone abusive, you are dealing with the wrong prospective partner. You can not fix someone else. Furthermore, one should realize that predatory people tend to lie and to promise great things--the observable facts don't match the talk. I have been in job situations, for that matter, in which I resented the manner in which I was supervised. Employment is also a type of relationship. In either category of relationship, if someone can't treat me well, I'm not going to stick around. Being able to skillfully break up if something isn't working is another asset. This was something I learned the hard way. I'm not a relationship doctor, and all I can offer is a little bit of common sense. Getting through a few bad situations and remaining intact may be a necessary experience before finding the right person. Sometimes the right person is simply someone with whom problems can be worked out, and not someone with whom you think there won't be any problems. If things are sometimes difficult yet workable, it might be that you have found the right relationship.

THE SAVVY SHOPPER: Savers Opens on University Avenue

By Stevanne Auerbach
Friday November 15, 2013 - 05:03:00 PM
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach
Stevanne Auerbach

The long empty Andronico’s store has been transformed and opened today as a new Savers Thrift Store. The parking lot was empty when I pulled up at 8:15 AM after driving my husband to BART. 

Had a chance to talk first with an enthusiastic customer who was looking forward to shopping as she and her sister had been to other Savers including Salinas and Reno, and she found them useful to find bargains. 

I waited while 50 enthusiastic T shirted staff and supervisors gathered in the parking lot to take photos. The opening spirit was high with lots of laughter, red balloons, and camaraderie. New jobs, training and caring for their staff is part of the Saver’s program. 

I talked with CEO Ken Alterman, who flew down from the headquarters in Bellevue Washington about the business that started in 1954 in San Francisco (but is no longer located in San Francisco as others like Goodwill, Salvation Army and Out of the Closet moved in to expand the burgeoning thrift and recycling services. Savers has grown to over 300 stores in the USA, Canada and Australia. The closest other stores to Berkeley include Dublin, Milpitas, Redwood City, Reno, Salinas, San Jose, Sparks, and Vacaville, 

I asked about the earlier parking lot problem which affected other businesses in that location, but it appears workable solutions have been found. Now everyone feels there will be more business to the area which will benefit and not deter the neighborhood. Having the building occupied is good. Savers faced a complicated remodeling project to renovate to fit their specific needs. 

Saver’s Donation Center now occupies the building where UNICEF and Grey Panthers offices were located. That’s good for neighbors also, as this is a perfect time to release stuff from the past and enjoy emptiness a bit before restocking on recycled clothing, hats, bags, shoes, housewares, jewelry, vintage and collectibles, furniture, unexpected treasures, and books.

Arts & Events

New: Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra Concerts Feature “The Power of Music”

By Elaine Hooker
Tuesday November 19, 2013 - 02:27:00 PM

The Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra (BCCO) will present a program of “music about the power of music” in its fall concert series in November. Under the direction of BCCO Music Director Ming Luke, the chorus will perform Charles Gounod’s elegant Messe Solennelle (St. Cecilia Mass), a paean to the patron saint of music; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ethereal Serenade to Music; and Franz Schubert’s poignant An die Musik in a new arrangement written especially for BCCO by composer Loretta Notareschi. 

The chorus will also perform the winning composition of BCCO’s most recent Young Composer Competition, Michael Schachter’s Oseh Shalom Bimromav, a setting of a well-known Hebrew prayer about granting peace to all people. 

BCCO will present three performances of the program: Saturday, Nov. 16, at 8:00 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 22, at 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 24, at 4:30 p.m. The concerts will be held at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St., Berkeley. All concerts are free and open to the public; donations are gratefully accepted. 

“Music about music has a rich tradition. And even today, music about the power of music remains a potent creative force,” said Luke. 

Professional soloists for BCCO’s fall concert series are Jennifer Paulino, soprano; Steven Ziegler, tenor; and Eric Howe, bass. Luke will accompany Howe in a performance of the original An die Musik, which was composed for solo voice and piano. 

This is an especially busy season for BCCO. In addition to its regular fall program, BCCO has been invited to perform the choral part of Mahler’s Symphony no. 2 (Resurrection Symphony) with the Stanford University Symphony Orchestra on Friday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2:30 p.m. in the new, highly acclaimed Bing Auditorium on the Stanford campus. 


The Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra is a non-auditioned community chorus of more than 220 singers dedicated to performing major classical works with orchestral accompaniment, free to the public. Ming Luke is the third director to lead the chorus since BCCO’s founding in 1966. He also serves as Assistant Conductor of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, and directs and conducts the Berkeley Symphony’s music education program. Luke recently was appointed the first music director of the newly revived Symphony Napa Valley. In October, Luke conducted the San Francisco Ballet at Lincoln Center in New York City.

New: “The Dining Room” Opens This Thursday in Piedmont/Oakland

Tuesday November 19, 2013 - 02:26:00 PM
John Hale, Karly Shea, Aaron Vanderbeek, SusannahWood, Brett Mermer,and Jamie Harkin
John Hale, Karly Shea, Aaron Vanderbeek, SusannahWood, Brett Mermer,and Jamie Harkin

Piedmont Avenue Repertory Theatre—a new theatre company-- this Friday Nov 22 opens with “The Dining Room” by A. R. Gurney at the Piedmont Center for the Arts, 801 Magnolia, Piedmont, for six performances with a reduced price preview on Thursday Nov 21. 

"The Dining Room" is "the perfect play for grown-ups for the holidays.” Gurney's play portrays the human comedy—and drama—that happens in that special room (that gets a lot of use in November and December).  

An intriguing “hook” of the play is that six actors play 56 parts.  

The actors change roles, personalities and ages with virtuoso skill as they portray a wide variety of characters, from little boys to stern grandfathers, and from giggling teenage girls to Irish housemaids. 

The cast includes John Hale, Jamie Harkin, Brett Mermer, Karly Shea, Aaron Vanderbeek, and Susannah Wood.  

The company founder and director John A. McMullen II, who has been a theatre critic for the Berkeley Daily Planet for the last few years noted, "I have an MFA from Carnegie where I trained as a director. But some of the best training I've had was this "sabbatical" as a critic for the BDP. The last three years of watching two or three plays per week and having to express what was good and not-so-good about them in some detail sharpened my aesthetic and my emotional vocabulary--which is an essential tool of a director."  

Piedmont Ave Rep is a newly formed company dedicated to bringing live, semi-professional theatre for grown-ups to Oakland and the Piedmont Ave area.  

Tickets at thediningroom@brownpapertickets.com or 800-838-3006, 

or on the website: www.PiedmontAveRep.org 

PREVIEW Thu Nov 21 $19 

Fri Nov 22, Sat Nov 23, Sat Nov 30 at 8 pm $25 

Sun Nov 24 & Dec 1 at 7 pm $25 

Running time 2:00 including intermission

Theater Review: 'Emmett Till, A River'--Theatre of Yugen at NOHspace--This Weekend Only

By Ken Bullock
Friday November 15, 2013 - 09:37:00 AM

"What is blame when it is spread out so thin Across fields and rivers, miles and roads?"

Theatre of Yugen, the Bay Area's troupe practicing the rigors of classical Japanese theater, Noh and Kyogen, is celebrating its 35th season with something profoundly different, unusually successful ...

'Emmett Till, A River,' a new play following the outline of a Noh tragedy, by Kevin Simmonds and Judy Halebsky, incorporates the infamous story from 1955 of the murder of a 14 year old African American from Chicago, visiting relatives in Mississippi, and his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, whose efforts to expose the hushed-up crime made her dead son a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Noh is a centuries-old, highly stylized, ritualized dance drama, usually known for its stately pace and use of masks and elegant costumery. What does a recondite traditional form from East Asia have to do with a sensational modern racial murder on America and its aftermath of seeking social justice? 

First of all, Noh has been deeply inspirational for modern theater. Since Ezra Pound turned Ernest Fenollosa's notes into poetic translations, influencing a major turn in the playwrighting of his friend, W. B Yeats, Noh plays have served as models or inspiration for masterworks such as Yeats' 'Purgatory,' Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's 'Der Jasager' and Benjamin Britten's 'Curlew River.'  

Theatre of Yugen has made many adaptations of plays into Noh style over the decades, including 'Purgatory,' and here has used as a model an ancient play, 'Fujito,' credited to Noh's most illustrious performer, playwright and theorist, Zeami, of 14th century Japan, in which a general, rewarded for his service by being made governor of the district he conquered, is confronted by a local woman, who accuses him of killing her son and disposing of his body in secret.  

Many Noh tragedies, those inspired by Buddhist theology (there are older, more Shinto Noh plays, too), pivot around a particular setting, the memory of some event or personality, the appearance of a ghost who tells the tragic secret of its end. The object is, like the Greek tragic catharsis, to bring what's hidden and difficult to light and understanding, inspiring compassion and freeing the captive spirit. 

Yugen's staging, directed by artistic director Jubilith Moore, takes Noh's austere form and, if anything, makes it even sparer. There's no dance, none of the elaborate martial arts-style movement that characterizes the form. They call it a concert staging. But by concentrating on the stillness of the stage, the voices of actors and chorus, the sounds of musical instruments, the company recreates the poetic echo chamber of a Noh play, capturing the overtones and undertones of the story of Emmett Till. 

There are three ranks, or stations of performers onstage at NohSpace: at the back, stage left, two musicians, David Crandall on Nohkan (Noh transversal flute), Kotsusumi (the smaller, flexible-headed Noh drum) and Hyoshiban (a block of wood, struck with a fan), also uttering Kakegoe, the wail-like signals of Noh musicians that add to the ambiance--and Polly Moller on flute and bass flute; to their right, downstage, a chorus, which also plays instruments, Derek Lassiter, Khalil Sullivan (keyboards) and Dario Slavazza (clarinet) ... finally, downstage in front, the two actors, Sheila Berotti as Carolyn Bryant (in Noh terms, the Waki) and Lluis Valls as both Mamie Till and, later, Emmett Till. 

Carolyn Bryant was the white woman, a storekeeper, who Emmett Till allegedly whistled at (his crime!), and whose husband, after acquittal by an all-white jury, admitted to the murder--and was divorced by Bryant, who never commented on the events. But here, in slow, stylized speech, she talks, years later, about the heat of the night, the river (Tallahatchie River), sounds, thoughts ... The chorus slides in and out, lyrical lines about a Southern summer, a few notes or chords on an instrument, fingers snapping when the sounds shift, for a moment, to Chicago's South Side, hands clapping briefly Gospel-style in other moments ... 

The story rises up out of these lyrical impressions, that simmer with a vague uneasiness, when Lluis Valls, a performer of both power and subtlety, begins half-talking, half-chanting as Mamie Till, arriving in Mississippi, "not here to catch the sights!" As in Noh, a male performer doesn't disguise his voice when playing a female character, or persona. There's an increasing hypnotic effect, as Mamie Till confronts Carolyn Bryant, accuses her of complicity in her son's death. She denies it, but as the story unfolds, her demeanor changes, and Valls takes up the voice of long-dead Emmett Till addressing the last living witness to his fate. 

It's all very simple, but that simplicity is a pregnant moment--as Lessing, the first great dramaturge, called the image of great theater--that crystallizes a world of spoken and unspoken passion, secrets, remorse and pride. The aspect of the seven performers onstage is phenomenal, recalling the aura of Noh plays, where actors are "in character" only when in action, otherwise are deadpan participants, actors only, awaiting their moments of revelation. 

And 'Emmett Till, A River' is a revelatory experience, not a reenactment of a news story, but a poetic exploration of the souls of very different people caught up in unthinkable events. And a revelation of Noh itself, of what can be extracted from its venerable old tradition and pressed into service to express a different dimension of what makes up modern life.  

Theatre of Yugen has planned events around the performances, which have included appearances and commentary by members of the Till family. This is the final weekend. Friday and Saturday at 8, Sunday at 2, NOHspace, 2808 Mariposa (in Project Artaud, between Harrison and Bryant), San Francisco. $25. (415) 621-0507; theatreofyugen.org 

Two Theater Reviews: Ibsen's 'A Doll House' in Marin, SubShakes' Burlesque of 'Shakespeare Night at the Blackfriars'

By Ken Bullock
Friday November 15, 2013 - 09:43:00 AM

--A Brilliant Version of Ibsen's 'A Doll House' in Marin

Driving past St. Vincent's School, on the bayside of 101 north of San Rafael, south of Novato, there's a glimpse, as maestro Kent Nagano once put it, of an older, bucolic California, a tableau that could've appeared anywhere along the coast or a few inland waterways in the not-so-distant past. The fields of the Silveira Ranch run to old eucalyptus in the background, with the spire of a Mission-style church visible through them, a former orphanage from Gold Rush days, now a home for abused young people.

There's an auditorium opposite the church, often used by local performing arts groups, where something unusual's being staged right now: a remarkable production of Ibsen's most famous play--one of the most famous plays in the modern repertory--'A Doll House,' 1878, which anatomizes the plight of the housewife with a tightly-wound plot and brilliant, ironic dialogue. Strindberg wrote another masterpiece to answer it, 'Miss Julie,' and 'A Doll House' has served as touchstone for both modern theater (and modern writing in general--for several generations, Ibsen was venerated as a stylist in the manner usually confined to poets and novelists) and awareness of the movement for women's equality ever since. 

Ron Nash, veteran director from the Northeast, who has had a few very good shows to his credit in North Bay community theater since he retired here awhile back, has taken on Ibsen's masterwork with fresh, immediate insight, rejecting the translations he read as awkward, finally making his own adaptation (Nash is also a playwright) that is unusually close to the bone, or--to put it differently--cuts to the chase, taking the colloquial Norwegianisms academically rendered in many translations as dead weight, jettisoning them, but embodying their meaning in the characters' action. 

And this is a very active production from the start, thanks to the ceaseless energy of Stephanie Ann Foster in the role of Nora, constantly bustling up and down her parlor, entertaining all as the songbird, the busy little squirrel her husband Torvald (Gabriel Ross) describes her as--and every second displaying new facets of the hidden anxiety and inventiveness that have kept her household afloat, albeit based on deception and self-deception. 

I've seen many versions of this masterwork onstage, and all repay the cast and audience based on how much honest artistry, professional or amateur, is lavished on 'A Doll House.' Maybe that's part of the definition of an authentic great work. But I don't recall any which opened up the story, the characters, every bit of activity, every pause to such a world of meaning at every moment. That's the real action of theater, and this is great theater in every sense. Director, cast (Foster, Ross, Bill McClave, Jim McFadden, Kelsey Sloan, Lynn Sotos, Amanda Lipari Maxson, Izzi Lipari Maxson, Kia Wahl) and the members and volunteers of Marin Onstage, from producer Gary Gonser, through Paul Abbott, Diane Pickell-Gore, Frank Sarubbi, Nancy Bodan-Gonser and Rick Banghart, who all have brought it so much to life, deserve a bow--a true triumph of ensemble theater. It more than rewards the drive out to this beautiful spot across the Richmond Bridge. 

Thursday through Saturday at 8, Sunday at 3, through November 17. Little Theater at St. Vincent's, 1 St. Vincent's Drive, San Rafael. Tickets: $10-$18. (415) 448-6152; MarinOnstage.org 

--The Bard Upside-Down, Inside-Out by SubShakes 

What happens when you put seven zanies onstage as great Jacobean playwrights (well, one is the ghost of an Elizabethan), plus actors, a minstrel, all charged to perform something quintessentially 21st century, like make one minute plays from the Swan of Avon's unparalleled outpourings? 

The results are onstage, right now, by Berkeley's own Subterranean Shakespeare, albeit in a theater near Union Square, playing George Crowe's 'Shakespeare Night at the Blackfriars, London Idol, 1610,' which refers to an indoor theater managed by The Bard's old leading man, Richard Burbage, played by SubShakes producer Geoffrey Pond, presiding over the madness ... Jeffrey Trescott, Debi Durst, Michael Walraven, Mantra Plonsey, Amy Lizardo and Maureen Coyne (with live, onstage music by Cindy Webster) rage through plays-within-plays, roles-within-roles, leaving nary an eyeball unrolled, pratfall unturned, as they behave like what a few great dramatists swaggering out of the Mermaid Tavern after a few in a time of plague would've been wont to ... 

The play itself is one of the many that have come whizzing down the pike since the Stoppard-scripted movie 'Shakespeare in Love' waved the green flag ... 

The fun's in the moment-to-moment burlesque, the knock down, drag out inventiveness of the company. Crowe's play will either delight Shakespeare nitpickers or make them gnash their teeth at the rush of anachronisms, the flood of styles he subjects the Bard's plots and conceits to, sometimes with a zest for verbal cleverness. 

After years of producing staged readings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the good news is that SubShakes has essayed a full-length play, directed by Robert Currier, longtime artistic director of Marin Shakespeare and other Bardic enterprises, but as much a certifiable zany as any in his cast. 

Friday and Saturday at 8, Sunday at 7 through November 17, Phoenix Theatre Annex, 4th Floor, Native Sons Building, 414 Mason (near Geary), downtown San Francisco. $20-$25. (510) 270-3871; SubShakes.com