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A shopper leaves Berkeley's Grocery Outlet, proposed for demolition for new project.
A shopper leaves Berkeley's Grocery Outlet, proposed for demolition for new project.


Updated: THE HOSPITAL HAS BEEN DESTROYED: International Activists Remained in Gaza Hospital Threatened by Israeli Missiles

From Ally Cohen, ISM Media Office (English)
Tuesday July 15, 2014 - 11:29:00 PM

UPDATE: Israeli bombing has destroyed the hospital. 

Editor's Note: We received this press release by email about 9:30 p.m. PST from someone whose email used the name "Irish". It was accompanied by a long list of names and phone numbers of ISM members who are supposed to be in the hospital. At this time we have no way of verifying it, but we thought it was important enough to publish since it might very well be true. It was featured three days ago the Mondoweiss blog: Gaza hospital struck by missiles; int'l volunteers gather to pro

Israel's army fired five warning missiles at El-Wafa geriatric hospital in Gaza City, Gaza. International volunteers now staying in the hospital in solidarity, have said they, "can hear missiles falling close by".

"The civilian population of Gaza is being bombed. We will stay with them in solidarity until the international community and our governments take action to stop Israel's crimes against humanity," states Swedish International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist, Fred Ekblad.

The volunteers are citizens of USA, Spain, Sweden, Venezuela, France, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The first barrage of missiles hit the fourth floor of the hospital at 2:00AM. 


At approximately 19:00 last night a fifth missile hit the hospital. "Windows and doors were blown out, broken glass everywhere, damage to the stairs, there's a big hole at the impact area and the wall is burnt," reports Joe Catron, ISM activist, from the U.S. 

At around 20:00 Basman Alashi, executive director of the hospital, received an unidentified call from a person with a, 'heavy Israeli accent', asking if there were any injuries, whether there was any one in the top floor, and whether they were planning to evacuate the hospital. 

Alashi says the hospital will not be evacuated because there is nowhere to evacuate the patients too. "El-Wafa hospital serves the patients that need medical attention 24 hours a day. Including patients that can't move, or people who need to be fed by tube. This hospital is the only one in Gaza specializing in the rehabilitation of people who need physical and occupational therapy. All our patients are over 60 years old, men and women. We don't understand why the Israeli forces have fired five rockets at the hospital in the last 24 hours so far. We serve humanity."

Demolition Sought to Replace Grocery Outlet Building with 5-Story Mixed Use Project

Becky O'Malley
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 06:13:00 PM
This sign proposes demolishing Grocery Outlet and replacing it with a five-story mixed use building.
Mike O'Malley
This sign proposes demolishing Grocery Outlet and replacing it with a five-story mixed use building.
Architect's rendering of the under-construction Aquatic Residence apartment building.
from the Read Investments web site
Architect's rendering of the under-construction Aquatic Residence apartment building.
The view of the Read Building from the Grocery Outlet Parking lot.
Mike O'Malley
The view of the Read Building from the Grocery Outlet Parking lot.
A shopper leaves Berkeley's Grocery Outlet, proposed for demolition for new project.
A shopper leaves Berkeley's Grocery Outlet, proposed for demolition for new project.

Aided by the economic recovery, the gentrification of the part of West Berkeley once devoted to light manufacturing and warehouse space continues apace. On June 16 architect David Trachtenberg filed an application for a use permit for a 5-story mixed use building on the site at 2001 Fourth Street now occupied by Grocery Outlet, a discount retail store which is part of a more-than-200-store chain.

Long-time Berkeleyans remember that the market used to be called Canned Foods. It has filled an important niche for the financially strapped West Berkeley shopper, specializing in packaged food items that had dings and dents, were close to their pull date, or were marked down for some other reason that didn’t affect safety or nutritional value. It will be sorely missed if it closes, patrons say.

An obligatory large yellow sign has been hung on the back wall of the store facing University Avenue, but it lists only the architect, not the owner. Yesterday, the City of Berkeley’s Planning Department posted the full application and accompanying plans on its current zoning list. A number of variances from height and density zoning regulations are requested. 

The site owner is listed on the applications as RI Berkeley LLC. A Planning Department staff member told the Planet that the site is owned by Read Investments, the same owner as the adjacent Read Building. In a 2008 entry on Trachtenberg’s web site, the Read Building was described as “the first phase of a larger master plan for the entire block.” The boundaries of the square block are Fourth, University, Addison and Fifth. 

A second Read Investment building designed by Trachenberg is now under construction on the northeast corner of the block, the Aquatic Residences at 800 University Avenue. That one is advertised on the Read site as a 58-unit mixed-use apartment boasting “two roof top sky lounges, an outdoor bocce ball court, a high end fitness center and lush gardens.” 

Also on June 16, Reuters reported according to un-named sources that the Grocery Outlet chain is being offered for sale at the price of one billion dollars. The story said that “Grocery Outlet has about $100 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization and could sell for more than 10 times that figure….” 

A year ago the chain announced plans to move its headquarters from the Berkeley location to Emeryville. The San Francisco Business times reported that “Grocery Outlet was started in San Francisco, but it moved to Berkeley in 1992 to a 20,000-square-foot space at 2001 4th St. that sits above a Grocery Outlet store. The Berkeley space is owned by Read Investments LLC, a real estate firm founded by the same Read family that founded Grocery Outlet and owns real estate that the retailer leases.” 

In 2009, family members sold an 80% stake in Grocery Outlet to Berkshire Partners to facilitate continued expansion of Read Investments, according to the corporation’s web site. 

The current co-CEO of Grocery Outlet is MacGregor Read, grandson of the company’s founder, and several Read relatives are Read Investments partners and executives

Both employees and customers of the Berkeley Grocery Outlet have told the Planet that they are concerned about the store’s closing just as new apartments are adding thousands of residents to the neighborhood. The closest large food vendor is the West Berkeley Bowl, outside walking distance for most of those who live in the University avenue area. A few blocks east, the building formerly operated as a supermarket by Andronico’s, and before that by the Berkeley Co-Op, now houses a thrift store. 

Michael J. Caplan, the City of Berkeley’s Economic Development Director, told the Planet in an email that Office of Economic Development staff met with Grocery Outlet several times and encouraged them to stay in Berkeley, but nothing came of it. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that he’d met several times with representatives of United Food and Commercial Workers, the union which represents Grocery Outlet employees, because of concerns that jobs would be lost if the store closes. One employee who asked not to be quoted by name said they had been promised jobs at other Grocery Outlet locations, but the sale of the chain might affect that offer. 























Berkeley Cancels Plan to Remove Homeless Property from Gilman Overpass

Jeff Shuttleworth
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 10:57:00 PM

City of Berkeley officials today at least temporarily called off their threat to remove property at a homeless encampment under the Gilman Street overpass adjacent to Interstate Highway 80, saying some of the people who lived there have been able to find housing elsewhere. 

Manuel Ramirez, Berkeley's Manager of Environmental Health, said in a notice on July 2 that the encampment was a public nuisance and the city would remove all personal property from the site next Tuesday. 

But Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel said in an email to Mayor Tom Bates and City Council members that a notice was posted on the encampment this morning "informing the occupants that the original public nuisance notice has been terminated based on reports by the East Bay Community Law Center that the occupants are actively working with numerous city agencies to find housing." 

Daniel said, "This action will allow the occupants additional time to make relocation arrangements." 

Osha Neumann, a homeless advocate who works at the East Bay Community Law Center, said he's "happy" with the city's decision and "the spirit of it is right." 

But he said he's concerned about a section in the notice that says, "The city will monitor the situation and may without further notice take appropriate action to abate public nuisance conditions, up to and including the removal of personal property." 

Neumann said he thinks the city should issue a new notice if it decides down the road to remove personal property at the site. 

The number of homeless people living under the Gilman Street overpass increased dramatically earlier this year after Albany officials closed down a homeless encampment at a nearby landfill site known as the Albany Bulb. 

Albany officials cleared out the site, which is near Golden Gate Fields, so it can become part of the Eastshore State Park and provided money to help homeless people who had been there find alternative housing and services. 

Albany Assistant City Manager Nicole Almaguer said today that many former Bulb residents have found housing and a recent report indicated that only two former Bulb residents are living at the Gilman Street encampment. 

Neumann said the East Bay Community Law Center and other community organizations have successfully relocated many of the people who had been living under the Gilman Street overpass to new housing and only about seven to 10 homeless people still live at the site. 

Daniel said city staff "has been actively monitoring the situation at Gilman Street and "the accumulations and related rodent activity resulted in the need for enforcement due to the creation of a public nuisance." 

Ramirez said in his notice last week that, "Since there is no garbage service to the encampment, waste generated during the course of living in the area will accumulate and attract rodents." 

He said the personal accumulations at the encampment include food and large bags of dry dog food and the open-air storage of food will continue to attract rodents. 

Neumann said he believes the problems at the encampment would be largely solved if the city put trash cans there so the homeless people there would be able to throw away their garbage.

Press Release: Richmond Planning Commission Adopts Community Recommendations to Fix Chevron Project

From Greg Karras, Andres Soto, Roger Lin, Citizens for a Better Environment
Friday July 11, 2014 - 07:52:00 AM

Late Thursday night, July 10, 2014, the City of Richmond Planning Commission voted to certify the Environmental Impact Report for the Chevron Modernization Project. CBE had previously highlighted the flaws of this EIR; despite the millions of dollars and consultant resources spent on drafting the EIR, it still presents a project with clear climate, pollution and safety implications. 

The Attorney General had even previously intervened, recommending an environmentally superior alternative.
However, following Wednesday’s public hearing, the Planning Commission’s decision highlights that it has certainly heard the community’s voice. The Commission adopted CBE’s proposed: 

  • Climate Justice Mitigation Condition,
  • Clean Air Mitigation Condition, and
  • Inherent Safety Mitigation Condition.
Together, these conditions will decrease pollution, help California achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals, create a just transition and clean energy jobs program for local residents of Richmond, and improve safety at the refinery by replacing outdated and corroded piping and eliminating temporary “clamp” patching replacements throughout the refinery. 

“Our vision is to build our long term clean energy jobs future with the safest least emitting refinery that we can have while it’s still here. The victory tonight is a huge step towards reaching that goal,” said Greg Karras, CBE Senior Scientist. 

The EIR still suffers many defects, but these conditions go a long way to addressing those public and worker health and safety concerns. It remains to be seen whether Chevron will appeal these community conditions to the Richmond City Council.

Press Release: Berkeley Rotary Honors Judy Heumann and Ed Roberts

From Maxim Schrogin, Chair, Peace Committee, Berkeley Rotary
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 10:21:00 PM

The Rotary Club of Berkeley, California announces the 2014 Rotary Peace Grove Awards Ceremony to honor Ed Roberts and Judith Heumann, leaders of the civil rights movement for the disabled, on July 16, 2014 at 4:00 p.m., at the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline St. in Berkeley.

Ed Roberts, a native Californian, and Judith Heumann, a native New Yorker, are the bookends in the story of the independent living movement for disabled persons in America. Both contracted polio as children, both fought for their right to attend school, and both gained post-graduate degrees from Cal Berkeley. Their combined tenacity energized the civil rights movement for the disabled, established laws to provide access, and created organizations that helped countless individuals around the world find ways to reach their potential.  

Ed Roberts served as the Director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation from 1976-1983. He passed away in 1995. Judith Heumann currently serves as Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department under President Barack Obama. Ms. Heumann will be in attendance at the awards ceremony. 

In 1955, Berkeley Rotary created the Peace Grove by planting fifty redwood trees in Tilden Park. Each year, the club honors an individual or group that has made a significant contribution toward world peace in their lifetime. Judith Heumann and Ed Roberts gave disabled individuals and their families the right to live less restricted and more peaceful lives. Berkeley Rotary is pleased to honor these two extraordinary peacemakers.



Berkeley City Council Race:
Let the Endorsements Begin

Becky O'Malley
Friday July 11, 2014 - 01:15:00 PM

They’re off and running! Endorsements are coming thick and fast for Berkeley’s City Council races.

The official candidate’s filing period opens on Monday, July 14, and extends until August 8. A number of councilmember wannabes have already taken out the necessary papers and are collecting signatures which can be substituted for the $150 filing fee, and incidentally prove to the doubtful that the candidate actually has a few friends.  

The public relations apparati are gearing up. In the re-jiggered District 7, the much-touted student district, the council majority that engineered the gerrymander now seems to have endorsed a non-student to run against incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington. True, Blue Shield spokesman and candidate Sean Barry is a post-student, i.e. a UC Berkeley alumnus, but aren’t we all?  

One of the clueless commenters that the long-suffering Berkeleyside website patiently hosts suggests that Worthington is “the council member overseeing the Telegraph area”. This just in: a civics lesson. In Berkeley, councilmembers don’t run their districts. They have one vote, period. There are seven other councilmembers from other districts, and the mayor, who runs citywide, also has a vote, as well as powers of persuasion.  

Barry has been endorsed by the majority of councilmembers who are effectively controlled by Mayor Tom Bates. His supporters have five of the nine city council votes, so if they had wanted to improve conditions in District Seven, they could have done so by now, and they haven’t.  

The situation is further complicated by Bates’ overweening personal dislike of Worthington. Hatred is a strong word, but not unjustified. See, for example, Frances Dinkelspiel’s 2012 Berkeleyside story: Tom Bates to Kriss Worthington: Move away from me, which reports that “when asked why he wants Worthington to move, Bates half-joked, ‘So I don’t strangle him.’ “ 

Granted, there’s a lot for someone like Bates not to like about Worthington. He’s just too smart by half, isn’t he?  

Kriss is the original policy wonk. He reads every last word of his council packet and has an encyclopedic historic memory. Even worse, he’s not too good at keeping what he knows to himself like a good soldier should. He’s tenacious in his support of his southside constituents, even when their needs clash with UC Berkeley’s insatiable desire for Lebensraum. 

That’s one reason the new district map, which will be challenged on the November ballot by a referendum, lopped off key sections of the old District 7. This change was supposed to produce a student district, but since it exiled the most energetic student activists, the ones who live in the Northside co-ops, to a district dominated by affluent Hills homeowners, no student candidate has yet surfaced. And with Barry endorsed by the council majority, a student candidate would need to split off a sizeable percentage of the anti-Worthington vote to stand a chance.  

Other endorsements are starting to come in. Last week, the East Bay LGBTQ Stonewall Democratic club endorsed Worthington, as well as District 8 candidate Lori Droste. She’s one of two gay candidates in that district, the other one new (if unwilling) District 8 resident George Beier, whose home was gerrymandered out of District 7. He made a couple of creditable runs for council in previous elections, but lost to Worthington, who is also gay.  

It’s not clear what role if any identity politics will or should play in Berkeley’s fall council race. Stories about Lori Droste have mentioned that she would be the first openly lesbian city councilmember, but in a city with an openly lesbian city manager and two of nine councilmembers gay men, that might not make much difference. 

She’s supported, again, by the Bates majority, which could do more harm than good in a district which has many complaints about the way the city is run, notably the deplorable state of Willard Pool. She’s also got pro-growth developer-advocates like Livable Berkeley lobbyist Eric Panzer on her list of supporters, another potential minus in District 8, especially in the parts of Beier’s impacted Willard neighborhood added by the majority’s new district map.  

Young vs. not-so-young is another identity issue in District 7. Sean Barry is pitched as potentially, at 27, being the youngest city council member, but Councilmember Jesse Arreguin was only 24 when he was elected, and he’s only 29 now. Of course both Barry and Worthington are mere babes when compared to the other councilmembers and the Mayor, who is in his mid-seventies.  

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, another young candidate, has announced his intent to run in District One against Linda Maio, who was first elected 22 years ago when Barry was only in kindergarten. How much should any of this matter to the voters? 

And Soto-Vigil might reasonably claim other identity points: he’s a person of color, and a Latino to boot. He’d be the third councilmember in the former category, the second in the latter, and while a bit older than Barry he’s a whole lot younger than Maio. Should any of this count more than the fact that he’s been a councilmember’s aide for many years and so has learned a lot about how the city works? I wouldn’t think so. 

In my evaluation of whom to support, I prefer to take into account boring categories like experience, policy positions and alliances with others on the local political scene. I’ll wait for my own final endorsements until the window for candidates to file closes on August 8. (If any incumbent doesn’t file by then, the period in that district would be extended to August 13). 

In the meantime, if you think you already know who’s right for your district, go for it! Register voters, join campaigns, go door-to-door and talk to people. And you could even send money, because you can be pretty sure that the major commercial property interests have already set up their “impartial” campaign committees to slyly push their candidates of choice with endless glossy brochures, coming to a mailbox near you in the very near future. 


Odd Bodkins: Back to 1969 (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday July 11, 2014 - 02:29:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

We Need The Redistricting Referendum

Laurie Chastain with Marcia Poole
Friday July 11, 2014 - 01:28:00 PM

Much pro and con has been written to date about the sad and threatening business of the recent Berkeley redistricting. From one District 7 resident’s vantage point, here is the view: 

Thanks to an unbelievable redistricting hoo-ha, carried out by Mayor Tom Bates, and a majority of five Council members that have been seen to often vote with him on City issues, some District 7 residents found ourselves suddenly inhabiting Districts 6 (Wengraf) and 8 (Wozniak). Our ongoing issues, which our longtime incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington is familiar and in process with, would have to be explained and started all over again from scratch, with who knows what results. Even worse, now that we’re no longer District 7, we can’t even vote for Mr. Worthington in the upcoming November elections! 

How did this come about, you may ask? I, for one, am not just sure. I hear people around me say the same: how did this happen? 

Especially considering that nearly 8000 Berkeley residents disliked this sudden change enough to sign a referendum to halt the newly proposed “BSDC” map until it could be publicly voted upon, or alternative maps could be considered. These nearly 8000 signatures were gathered over the Christmas holidays (2013) – not the easiest time for signature-gathering.  

It seems clear that there was a general assumption by the authors of and participators in this referendum that once legally validated, therefore successful, the district shift would be halted until it could be voted upon, or alternative district maps considered. The Berkeley City Charter has this to say about a successful referendum: “…such ordinance shall not go into effect or become operative unless a majority of the qualified electors voting on the same shall vote in favor thereof.” So it does not seem an unreasonable assumption. 

Mayor Bates (et.al.) flatly refused to consider alternative maps, despite an initial public process in which opposition from neighborhood groups, progressives and students was strongly voiced. The reason finally given for turning them all down was “lateness” in coming up with the alternatives. 

Instead of accepting any of the “late” alternatives (and how many times has the Council continued a question until some later date, again?), Mayor Bates and the Council majority had an alternative of their own. 

One thing that no-one was expecting was a lawsuit by the City against the referendum authors and “parties” to it, including the officials who in good faith validated the referendum, and more than one of the people who worked on and circulated the petitions, believing they were exercising their lawful right to protest a governing body’s decision, in the correctly mandated fashion. 

While it surely had its legal excuses, the suit’s biggest effect has been to chill dissent against Mayor Bates’s preferences for Berkeley. 

Many have objected to the suit as a violation of the Brown Act, citing the lack of public transparency required by the Brown Act. The Council’s decision to hire public attorneys to handle the City’s suit, and to put the referendum on the November ballot, said Attorney Richard Miadich ( of Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, attorneys concerned about the Brown Act violations of the Mayor and Council majority), “were never publicly identified” before the documents themselves abruptly appeared, thus violating both the Brown Act and the City Charter. 

I’m not an attorney, but I think this means that we, the public, are supposed to hear about these things before the rules change. 

When this suit went to the Alameda County Superior Court, presided over by Judge Evilio Grillo, it did so at the eleventh hour. Judge Grillo decided that the defendants were guilty AND that the BSDC map (which the electorate had not had a chance to vote on yet) would be the one used in the upcoming November elections. This decision was handed down on April 29th. The County Registrar had to know which map would be used in the election on April 30th

Finally, there will be no appeal to this decision. The defendants cannot afford the costs of appealing the decision. 

So, done deal, looks like, to me. 

So this is how it was managed that we District 7 residents can no longer vote back in our longtime incumbent, and he loses much of his voting block right before the election. 

What we can still do is refuse this cutting a legal wheedle around due process that Berkeley seems to be suffering from lately, by voting against the “BSDC” map in November. 

Please just say no to gerrymandering, cherry picking the law, and the evading of due process in Berkeley. Let’s have an honest look at our proposed changes and their real consequences, before we accept a redistricting proposal that will change our realities so radically. Vote the BSDC map down. 

We don’t want the illusion of democracy, in this home of the Free Speech Movement. 

We want the real thing. 

Writer Laurie Chastain is now a former District 7 resident, as is Marcia Poole, who contributed to this piece. 











Condo Project Threatens
Berkeley Bob's Auto Repair:
An Open Letter

Melissa Stephens, Administrative Director, Berkeley Bob's
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 06:02:00 PM

Dear Planning and Development Dept;

After receiving your mailer announcing the proposed modifications to Use Permit #2014-0005 on Grayson and San Pablo I became aware of the condo project. I run a small automotive repair in the neighborhood just north of this development. The City installed parking meters out front of our business a couple years back greatly changing the ability of my customers, vendors and employees to find close parking and most days it's difficult to find any around the block. Bear in mind I operate an AUTOMOTIVE repair therefore my customers do not walk, bike or skateboard here - they must drive or tow in their vehicles. I feel if you allow this developer to build a 23 condominium mixed use project with only 13 parking spaces my business will be negatively affected when the occupants seek local street parking for their vehicles. I figure at least 33 cars looking for street parking not to mention any businesses that may be included in this project whose customers may need street parking.  

I invite you to drive around the neighborhood, 10th Street, 9th Street, Grayson Street, Heinz Street, Pardee Street and Oregon Streets. During the day these streets are full, more parking becomes available after 7pm however this reduction in parking means approximately 33 additional cars would take up every parking spot for 4 blocks. This is simply unacceptable. 

Hope you take this into consideration when making your decision.

Israel – escalating violence

Jagjit Singh
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 10:24:00 PM

It is unconscionable that Prime Minister Netanyahu should blame Hamas with the vile killings of three Israeli teenagers without offering any proof of their guilt. His wild accusations were largely responsible for the tragic death of 8 Palestinians and hundreds more arrested without charge. Netanyahu should present his evidence and those responsible must be fully punished.  

Likewise, those responsible for the deaths of 8 Palestinians should be held fully accountable. The arbitary arrest of hundreds of Palestinians without charge is a clear violation of international law. People in Ramallah are experiencing Israeli raids for the first time. There is almost a complete lockdown in Hebron. To subject over two million Palestinians in the West Bank to collective punishment - that have nothing to do with the death of the 3 Israel teenagers, is outrageous. If Israel claims it has a right to defend itself how can Palestinians be denied the same right? If lobbing rockets from Gaza is regarded as an act of terrorism then surely dropping bombs from high altitude must also be regarded as an act of terrorism. Thus far Israel has killed over 80 Palestinians, including 18 children and 10 women. Israeli settlers have engaged in appalling acts of terrorism – all with complete impunity. It is time to call for a halt to US aid to Israel which has been grossly misused to build more and more illegal settlements which is the root cause of the spiraling violence. 

Select a Progressive Pro-Tenant Rent Board Slate on Sunday

Katherine Harr & Jesse Townley, Berkeley Rent Board Commissioners
Friday July 11, 2014 - 02:10:00 PM

The Berkeley Tenants Convention will be held on Sunday, July 13th, at 1:30 pm at the South Berkeley Senior Center. All Berkeley residents are invited to this historic grassroots event, where we will select the progressive Rent Board slate for the November 2014 ballot. 

The Tenants Convention, also called the Berkeley Affordable Housing Convention, has selected a slate of candidates for the Rent Stabilization Board for over 20 years. In 2012, 208 residents came to the convention and cast their votes. Groups like the Green Party of Alameda, Berkeley Citizens Action and the Grey Panthers support the convention and provide screeners to rate the candidates. 

In 2012, the Rent Board race was the most hotly contested since vacancy decontrol in the 1990s. The Progressive Slate was opposed by “Tenants United for Fairness,” candidates funded by anti-rent control apartment owners, realtors and executives from property management firms. In the end, three Progressive candidates and one landlord were elected. Following the race several Fair Campaign Practice Commission complaints were filed. The Council majority FCPC, on a 5 to 3 vote, refused to open an investigation and take sworn testimony. Despite the candidates' control of a fund with illegal donations, including a single check from a rental property owners' PAC for $31,000, the FCPC fined them a token few hundred dollars and closed the case. 

Rents are rising all over the Bay Area, and people are finding it hard to afford housing here. More and more people are moving from San Francisco to the East Bay, accelerating the increasing cost of rentals. Renters’ rights have never been more important to protect and expand. “The convention is a real community process where people come together and have a voice and a vote in selecting a strong progressive slate for the Berkeley Rent Board,” said Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

This year there are five Rent Board Commissioner vacancies. At the convention, each aspiring commissioner will share their experience, philosophy, and goals. After everyone has spoken, the attendees will vote.

Homeowners, renters and smart landlords are invited to participate in this longstanding and unique Berkeley event, and help us find the most qualified candidates. All Berkeley residents who arrive by 2:00 pm and remain to hear candidates' speeches will receive a ballot. Residents cannot vote by proxy.

A $10 donation is requested to help pay for the room. Childcare is provided. Doors open at noon for World Cup broadcast (first come, first serve; no alcohol!) Those who are unable to contribute are welcome to contact us in advance to volunteer at the event or during the subsequent campaign. For more information, please contact us at berkeleytenantconvention@gmail.com or
(510) 982-6696 

We are also on facebook: 



ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Being a "Special Needs" Employee

Jack Bragen
Saturday July 12, 2014 - 09:01:00 AM

Our society keeps jobs and wealth away from those who can not keep their pace up with the rest. However, in order for companies to maximize profits it isn't actually necessary to exclude people with disabilities. Many of us have a great deal of potential that is being wasted. The work ethic as it currently exists excludes people who may have a few problems or a few differences. And it doesn't have to be this way.  

When I did volunteer work performing office duties, I didn't think it would be a big deal to call in sick. However, after calling in sick once, these people no longer had work for me. Although my absence was on the second day of work, these employers could have given me the benefit of the doubt, and could have given me another chance.  

When a friend worked as a volunteer, she was judged negatively by a supervisor who apparently did not understand her disability. People with mental illness need more sick days than other people. Forgiving this characteristic goes against modern day employment practices. However those employment practices ought to change, and the work world ought not be so harsh.  

The same person (mentioned above) got another volunteer job in which supervisory staff did not care about attendance, and this was helpful.  

Persons with disabilities often have numerous and great talents, and yet, often, we can't get hired except at the most awful of jobs. When someone has a mental illness, in order to get hired for any kind of decent job, we must generally conceal the fact of our illness. This is much harder to do now than it was before the advent of the internet.  

When mentally ill people are hired for something, they may find that conditions in the work environment are too difficult. However, if the person with mental illness is accommodated with special adjustments to their work situation, it can also be dismaying, since, ideally, we would like to be treated the same as any other employee.  

Special situations, especially those in which expectations are less, can sometimes be a source of humiliation. Being treated as "the mentally ill employee" can be quite a blow to self esteem, and this is the opposite of what we wanted when seeking employment.  

Thus, it might seem as though I am asking for an impossibility. On the one hand I am saying that the work environment should be made less harsh, and on the other hand, I am saying we would like to be treated the same. An answer to this dichotomy might require a lot of thought.  

This is where we invoke the idea of reasonable accommodation. Adjustments for disabled people should be such that the mentally ill person is still competitive and is still doing essentially the same job as others.  

For example, employers might consider not firing a mentally ill person after a couple of extra sick days. Attempts could be made to make the person feel welcome. Such adjustments might also include making the work environment seem less threatening, or might include giving extra break time to that individual. 

Upon making adjustments for a person with mental illness, the employer could still maintain the expectation that the work is usable for their company. The disabled employee should still be expected to produce something.  

In some jobs that I held in the past, I negotiated directly with the employer to obtain reasonable accommodation, and did not use the mental health treatment system to do the negotiation. This was empowering.  

Employers were willing to negotiate special terms with me because they liked the work and they liked my attitude. I had the tendency to do well in small "mama papa" companies wherein I worked directly for the business owner, and I have done less well in larger companies.  

A couple of these jobs were in the field of electronic repair. Other jobs included delivery driving and stocking shelves at a retail store.  

A couple of times I did try to use the MH treatment system to negotiate, and in these jobs, I was treated as an idiot, or in some cases not hired in the first place.  

When mental health professionals stepped in and tried to create special employment situations, it became quite humiliating. The presumption of idiocy is quite apparent, and I have never been able to accept that.  

Work performed from home by telecommute is often ideal for many people with a disability. Data entry or some type of transcription are examples of entry level positions that someone could perform in their home.  

In my past, one of the solutions I arrived at for the employment quandary was to become self-employed. If a disabled person is the head of a company, even a company with no employees, it still essentially guarantees not being fired or discriminated against. Most of my businesses weren't profitable, but the same can be said for small business in general—most fail within their first two years.  

* * * 

I still have two titles related to mental illness for sale on Amazon. And I have just released a short story collection titled: "Revised Short Science Fiction Collection of Jack Bragen." Click here to view my books. Please help support this column by purchasing some great reading material.  





ECLECTIC RANT: Remembering Our African Safaris

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 10:26:00 PM

Recently, my wife and I have been looking through photographs and notes from our various trips. One trip, our longest, was a two-month's long In 2002 to countries in eastern and southern Africa: Botswana, Namibia, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. We especially enjoyed our safaris in Botswana. A "safari" refers to a trip to observe and photograph wildlife.. 

During this trip, we saw the "big five" including our first white rhinos. The "big five" dates back to big game hunting days and refers to elephants, cape buffalo, rhinos, lions, and leopards, which were considered the prize trophy animals.  

Each of the three bush camps we visited in Botswana are located in remote, private, and unspoiled, African preserves. The camps accommodate 8 to 14 guests. The lodgings are permanent tented camps providing the atmosphere of Africa 100 or 200 years ago, while offering comfort. The camps are in an isolated locations with a small airstrip nearby. Guests arrive by air, usually by 5-passenger Cessnas. The plane circles the air strip to make sure there are no animals on the strip and then lands. We were warned to keep the tent end flaps zippered to keep the mosquitoes and monkeys out. It seems monkeys will come into tents and pick up clothes, toilet articles, medicines, etc. We saw monkeys in the trees waving undies. They especially love to squeeze the toothpaste. At the Savuti camp the toilet and shower were open on the side facing a path elephants used to go to and from the waterhole about 100 feet from the camp. We were able to sit doing our business while watching elephants walk by 25 to 30 feet away. It was a little disconcerting at first, but became fascinating after awhile. 

The safari experience centers around twice daily game drives. We were awakened at 5:30 a.m. and then assembled at the lodge at 6 for coffee/tea, juice and muffins/biscotti. We then departed in an open Land Rover for game viewing. The driver/guide knew the vast game preserve like the back of his hand and always seemed to find game. The animals are used to the vehicles and paid little attention when we drove up. We were, of course, cautioned to stay in the vehicle, keep seated, and make as little noise as possible when close to animals. We always saw elephants, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, impala, wart hogs.  

The morning game drive lasted until about 10:30 to 11 a.m. At about 4, we went out on the afternoon game drive. Most animals seem to disappear during the heat of the day so game drives were in the morning and late afternoon. We stopped for a "sundowner" for drinks and food around our vehicle while we watched the sunset. On the way back to camp, the guide used a spotlight to illuminate nocturnal animals. The light reflected off their eyes. We saw hyenas, spring hare (looks like a miniture kangaroo and hops like one too), and African wild cats. After dinner, we were escorted back to our tents. The camps do not have fences around them. Animals can and did wander through the camps at night. We often heard hippos and elephants crashing about at night. Needless to say, we were cautioned to stay in our tents until daylight. 

We must have been on at least 40 game drives while in Africa. We never tired of watching the animals going about their business. We watched elephants mating -- is that a sight. We watched a baby elephant trying to manipulate his trunk. Kind of like a baby using a spoon for the first time. The baby picked up some grass and couldn't get it into her mouth; it went over its head. In frustration, it finally ran to momma and started suckling. We watched four lions stalking a herd of cape buffalo and a leopard laying on a tree branch feeding on its impala kill. And we saw birds of all sizes and colors. 

One highlight of our trip was watching a cheetah teaching her two youngsters how to stalk and kill an impala. We were within 10 feet as we followed the cheetah as she slowly stalked the herd of impalas through the tall grass. When she got close enough, she quickly grabbed one by the throat and slowly suffocated it to death. She then called her cubs. Momma tried to drag the body to the shade of our vehicle so we had to move away a bit. We watched the cheetahs awhile and then drove away when the cheetahs started feeding. Later we came back to the same spot. The impala was stripped to the skeleton and the three satiated cheetahs were laying contentedly nearby. Cheetahs are sleek and fast and can turn on a dime, the swiftest African cat over a short distance. Although fast, they lack size against the bigger predators like hyenas and therefore, they eat fast before the bigger predators arrive. They became our favorite cat. 

Our two-month Africa trip was one of our best ever. If you like animals, we recommend an African safari.

Arts & Events

Around & About Music: The 28th Annual Mendocino Music Festival & Susan Waterfall's Festival-Within-A-Festival, the Bach Fest

Ken Bullock
Friday July 11, 2014 - 04:30:00 PM

This weekend, the Mendocino Music Festival starts up its 28th annual season, two weeks of music of all kinds, with afternoon and evening programs every day ... 

... From famed pianist Stephen Prutsman playing Bach and Mozart to the last tour of the celebrated LA country rock band POCO (the same day as LA country rock veteran Chris Hillman's featured in a duo act), a staging of 'Don Giovanni' with Eugene Brancoveanu singing the title role (as West Edge Opera's opening show a few years back proved, a perfect singer and actor to portray the scandalous Don), big band music led by saxophonist and Festival co-founder, UC Berkeley music professor Allan Pollack, with Kim Nalley singing the hits of Aretha Franklin, bluegrass and flamenco, April Verch's fiddle playing and step dancing, Poncho Sanchez's Latin jazz band, singers Kenny Washington (jazz), Irma Thomas (R&B) and Frederica von Stade ... 

At the heart of the Festival is Susan Waterfall's festival-within-a-festival, the Bach Fest, for four days, starting this Sunday, the most extended yet of her remarkable explorations of music and its multiple contexts. Susan's delivery is unique. More than just talking head commentary, emerging from and lapsing back into gorgeous musical interpretation with occasional illustrative multimedia--her own piano-playing and excellent collaborators--she has evolved a style more like the most engaging of conversations with some rumination, weaving in and out of these wonderful sounds. 

For the Bach Fest, the programs are Bach and Beer (the master was often paid in brew, not cash--so a whole new medium to explore!), Bach at the Keyboard, The Unaccompanied Suites and Musical Offering (with) Prutsman Plays Bach, a trove of exquisite music, erudition and many digressions of pure interest and pleasure ... 

On May 28th, Susan and her fellow players--including cellist Burke Schuchmann, flutist Mindy Rosenfeld and violinist Jeremy Cohen--presented a preview of the Festival in the library of the Berkeley City Club to a packed and enthusiastic audience. Spontaneous standing ovations followed many of the selections: masterful solo work by the players from the D Minor Chaconne for Violin and other Bach suites and sonatas, and finally the ensemble of the Trio Sonata from the Musical Offering, as well as the Italian Concerto, showing in advance the fine playing by longtime collaborators that Festival audiences can look forward to hearing ... 

As well as all the other events, another that is something in compositional music a little more modern, and perfectly complementary, to Bach: an evening with the Festival Orchestra, featuring Sibelius' Violin Concerto, Rachmaninoff's Symphony #2--and new works by Allan Pollack and Julian Pollack, son of the co-founders--longtime residents of both Berkeley and Mendocino--who grew up at the Festival, now a rising young jazz pianist in New York City. 

Mendocino Music Festival, July 12-26, tickets $12-$47 mendocinomusic.org, (877) 977-9017

A Not-to-Be-Missed Film Retrospective: A Tribute to The Amazing Career of Don Murray

Gar Smith
Friday July 11, 2014 - 07:47:00 AM

"Don Murray." If a bell rings when you hear the name, you are probably (1) a die-hard fan of ancient, edgy, noirish cinema and (2) more than 50 years old.

I don't believe I ever actually caught any of Don Murray's performances but I always associated him—erroneously it turns out—with a string of serviceable B-movie productions. Au contraire, Roxie Theatre programmer Elliot Lavine points out. "Don Murray was as big a star in the late 50s as Paul Newman." He starred alongside the likes of James Cagney, Eva Mary Saint, Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton and James Earl Jones. Now, after two decades of oblivion, San Francisco's Roxie Theater has resurrected 14 of Murray's greatest films for a three-day run on July 11-13. As a bonus, Murray himself—still energized and whip-smart at the age of 84—is coming along for the party!

A "Very Special Weekend with Don Murray" will serve as a rich cinematic prequel to the scheduled November release of Unsung Hero, a new feature film on Murray and his extraordinary career. Directed by Don Malcolm, Unsung Hero, recounts how one of Hollywood's great careers wound up derailed by the politics of the day. "What happened to him is one of the truly baffling events in Hollywood history," says biopic director Malcolm. "It's a story that's just begging to be told." 


One of the highlights of the Roxie's retrospective will be a special screening a new, fully restored 35mm print of Call Me by My Rightful Name (1972), Murray's long-lost tale of an interracial love triangle. 

"We're excited to be able to provide the Roxie audience with the best possible reintroduction to a film that has been otherwise lost to the public for nearly four decades," says Malcolm. 

"Don Murray took off like a rocket after his appearance opposite Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop," Malcolm notes. So why is Murray and his film legacy such a mystery to modern film lovers? As Malcolm has come to understand, Don Murray just "wasn't interested in movie stardom as practiced in 50s Hollywood…. His stage training and his personal convictions—pacifism and altruistic service—set him apart from the way things worked in Tinseltown. He did things his own way—and he paid a price for it." 

Murray developed an abiding interest in the struggle for racial equality. As early as the 1950s, Murray appeared opposite Sidney Poitier in a live TV drama called "A Man Is Ten Feet Tall." The story involved the collision of two dockworkers from different racial backgrounds who nonetheless manage to forge a friendship in the bruising, working-class arena of the Manhattan waterfront. 

Murray's filmography bristles with off-beat performances in edgy films. Lavine emphasizes how Murray's career choices increasingly revealed a boat-rocking "commitment to cutting-edge roles that dealt with controversial social issues." In A Hatful of Rain (1957), Murray appears as a heroin junkie hiding his addiction from his wife. In Advise & Consent, he's seen as a closeted gay Senator (a topic that no one else seemed willing to touch for another generation). 

One of the coolest treats in the Roxie's MurrayFest is Sweet Love, Bitter, a little-known 1966 flick co-starring Murray and a young comedian named Dick Gregory. Gregory plays a Charlie Parker-like jazz artist while Murray is a sheltered, down-on-his-luck college professor. Robert Hooks and Diane Varsi were daringly cast as an interracial couple (a taboo subject in the 50s and well into the 60s). 

"It's a powerful film that—like many works that cut too close to the bone—was chopped up by its producers and virtually left by the side of the road after it was completed," Malcolm fumes. 

(Note: Gregory and Hooks are scheduled to join Murray (Hooks in person, Gregory via Skype on the Roxie screen) after the screening of the film on Saturday, July 12.) 

"What happened to Don Murray's career in the 1960s is a metaphor for what happened to the United States in those years," in Malcolm's view. "People have forgotten that he was on the cutting edge of independent filmmaking in the early 1960s with The Hoodlum Priest (1961). To come to the Roxie and see the promise and the achievement in that film will provide the audience with a sense of how Sixties filmmaking lost something when Don Murray had so many doors slammed shut on him." 

"Don Murray had a fabulous string of performances in the late 50s and early 60s but they rarely, if ever, get screened," Lavine laments. "It's both vexing and perplexing, and this festival will rectify that situation."  

The retrospective will spotlight several of Murray's most rarely seen films, including The Confessions of Tom Harris (1968), Call Me by My Rightful Name (1972), the 1976 neo-noir Deadly Hero (with Murray as a cop whose homicidal shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude throws his life into a tailspin), and the still-controversial Endless Love (1981). 

The force of Murray's onscreen performances is undeniable, says Lavine. The actor "has always been fascinated by characters whose lives are at a point of ultimate impact. You can feel the tension building on the screen. Frankly, it often makes audiences squirm." 

Abandoning the easy leading-man roles that could have padded his wallet (instead of his resume) marginalized Murray and his Hollywood career but, Malcolm maintains, the actor holds no regrets. "He has stayed true to himself, and he's one of the most genuine and most thoroughly decent human beings I've ever had the privilege to meet…. The Roxie audience will experience that when they have the chance to be with him in person." 

"A Special Weekend with Don Murray" comes with another bonus: A series of work-in-progress clips from Unsung Hero that will be screened for Roxie audiences during the course of the retrospective. 

The MurrayFest Schedule of Screenings 


From Unsung Hero "No Fix from the Past": A conversation between Don Murray & Foster Hirsch about A Hatful of Rain (8 min) 

A HATFUL OF RAIN (1957, 111 min.) 7:30 [35mm print] 

Eva Marie Saint, Don Murray, Anthony Franciosa, Lloyd Nolan, Henry Silva, William Hickey, Gerald O'Laughlin; directed by Fred Zinnemann 

From Unsung Hero "The Perfect Actors' Mini-Studio": The Bachelor Party (7 min.) 

THE BACHELOR PARTY (1957, 86 min) 9:45 [35mm print] 

Don Murray, Patricia Smith, Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, Carolyn Jones, Larry Blyden, Nancy Marchand; directed by Delbert Mann 

Special late screening 

SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (1959, 111 min.) 11:30  

James Cagney, Don Murray, Dana Wynter, Michael Redgrave, Glynis Johns, Cyril Cusack; directed by Michael Anderson

SATURDAY, JULY 12 (two separate shows) 

Episode of THE OUTCASTS "The Long Ride" (1969, 50 min.) 12:00  

Don Murray, Otis Young, William Bassett, J. Pat O'Malley; directed by Robert Butler. 

From Unsung Hero "Don Murray on Otis Young" (digital, 5 min.) 

CALL ME BY MY RIGHTFUL NAME (1972, 90 min.) 1:00 [Don Murray private DVD] 

Don Murray, Otis Young, Catherine Crosby, Kent Smith, Edith Atwater; directed by Michael Shurtleff. 

Don Murray in person interviewed by his sons Christopher and Michael 

A MAN IS TEN FEET TALL (1955, 50 minutes) 3:30 [Don Murray private DVD] 

Sidney Poitier, Don Murray, Martin Balsam, Hilda Simms, Michael Strong; directed by Robert Mulligan. 

SWEET LOVE, BITTER (1967, 92 minutes) 4:30  

Don Murray, Dick Gregory, Diane Varsi, Robert Hooks; directed by Herbert Danska. 

Interview with Don Murray, Dick Gregory and Robert Hooks (schedules permitting) to follow 

From Unsung Hero "The Kid Burned His House Down!" (5 min.) 

ENDLESS LOVE (1981, 120 min) 7:15  

Don Murray, Shirley Knight, Brooke Shields, Martin Hewett, James Spader; directed by Franco Zefferelli 

Interview with Don Murray 

From Unsung Hero "The Pacifist as Pugllist": Reflections and memories from Don Murray and his family (3 min.) 

THE CONFESSIONS OF TOM HARRIS (1968-72, 94 min.) 10:15  

Don Murray, Linda Evans, David Brian; dir. by John Derek and David Nelson 


POLICE STORY "The Big Walk" (1973, 51 min.) 12:00  

Don Murray, Dorothy Provine, Lynda Day George, Noah Beery Jr., Larry Wilcox, Jeff Corey, John Kerr, Regis Toomey, Tom Hayden; directed by Robert Day 

From Unsung Hero "The Making of a Deadly Hero" Conversations with Don Murray, Diahn Williams and Tom McGrath (3 min) 

DEADLY HERO (1976, 100 min.) 1:00  

Don Murray, Diahn Williams, James Earl Jones, Treat Williams, Conchata Ferrell; directed by Ivan Nagy. 

From Unsung Hero "Song and Dance Man" Don Murray's 1970s return to New York City (8 min) 

Interview with Don Murray by Foster Hirsch 

THE HOODLUM PRIEST (1961, 109 min.) 3:00  

Don Murray, Keir Dullea, Larry Gates, Cindi Wood; directed by Irvin Kershner. 

From Unsung Hero "The Power of Positive Confusion" (digital, 6 min.) 

ADVISE AND CONSENT (1962, 126 min) 6:30  

Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney, Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Peter Lawford, George Grizzard, Inga Swenson, Burgess Meredith; dir. by Otto Preminger 

Interview with Don Murray by Foster Hirsch  

From Unsung Hero "Don Murray on Marilyn Monroe" (digital, 6 min.) 

BUS STOP (1956, 96 min.) 9:15 

Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O'Connell, Hope Lange; directed by Joshua Logan

The 2nd Annual Matatu Film Festival
July 16-19, 2014

Review by Gar Smith
Friday July 11, 2014 - 02:02:00 PM

San Francisco no longer has a lock on international film festivals. Moviegoers, start your engines: it's time for the second roll-out of Oakland's Matatu Film Festival which is set to run from July 16 to 19 at The Flight Deck (1540 Broadway) and Impact Hub (2323 Broadway).

First order of business: what's a "matatu"? Well, matatus (it's a Swahili word) are popular and highly decorated minibuses that fill East Africa's busy streets with color and the blare of onboard music. The connection? As festival founder Michael Orange explains, both movies and matatus transport people to new (and sometimes surprising) destinations. "These different films spotlight a unique journey, regardless of age, geographical bounds, sexual preference, race, and socio-economic status."

Here's the line up: 


The festival starts Wednesday, July 16 at the Impact Hub with a screening of THE GREAT FLOOD, a collaborative project Inspired by the 1927 Mississippi River Flood that blends archival film footage against a background of American roots music provided by Bill Frisell. There will be a pre-screening discussion before the film – a tradition established last year as part of Matatu's Brooklyn/Oakland Reconstructed film and lecture series. 


Thursday, July 17 starting at 7:15pm  

UNOGUMBE transplants Benjamin Britten's 1957 opera, Noye's Fludde (Noah's Flood), from medieval England to the hardscrabble townships of contemporary South Africa. 


KEHINDE WILEY: AN ECONOMY OF GRACE plunges viewers into the world of Big Apple painter Kehinde Wiley. Celebrated for his modern renderings of classical portraits of African American men, Wiley is challeged to create a series of paintings of women and, in the process, discovers new dimensions of black femininity. 

Both films screen at The Flight Deck. 


Thursday, July 17 starting at 8:45pm  

AFRONAUTS is an amusing short film that focuses on an improbable team of Zambian exiles who take it into their reads to try to challenge the US in its 1969 race to land on the moon. 


THE 12 O'CLOCK BOYS is director Lofty Nathan's high-octane take on a notorious gang of urban dirt-bikers from the boondocks of Baltimore. 

Both films screen at The Flight Deck. 


Friday, July 18 starting at 7:15pm 

OYA: RISE OF THE ORISHA transforms some of Africa's mythical gods into pop-culture superheroes as it wraps its story around a partnership with our protagonist, Ade, and his special deity, Oya. 


EVAPORATING BORDERS, a five-part visual narrative blends "stories of tolerance, identity and nationalism" among a series of individuals struggling with migration issues on the island of Cyprus. 

Both films screen at The Flight Deck. 


Friday, July 18 at 9:15pm 

VIRUNGA. Virunga National Park, located in the forests of eastern Congo, is recognized as one of the planet's most bio-diverse areas. It is also home to the world's last remaining mountain gorillas. VIRUNGA follows the dangerous work of a small band of park rangers who try to protect the gorillas and their habitat from armed militias, poachers and the international corporations competing to control of the Congo's natural wealth. 

Screens at The Flight Deck.  

Saturday, July 19 at 5:45pm 

EVOLUTION OF A CRIMINAL is a raw documentary that follows felon Darius Clark Monroe's return to the hood after serving time for robbery. Family, friends and former teachers recall events in Monroe's life that turned him from a happy, innocent kid into a "criminal." Not surprisingly, family poverty played a major role in how one young man became "a menace to society." 

Screens at The Flight Deck. 

Saturday, July 19 at 7:20pm  

OF GOOD REPORT puts a film-noir twist on the tale of a novice high school teacher with a passion for teaching and an extra-curricular passion for a young femme fatal. 

Screens at The Flight Deck. 

Saturday, July 19 at 9:30pm 

MALA MALA is a unique exploration of self-discovery and activism featuring a diverse collection of subjects that include LGBTQ advocates, business owners, sex workers and a boisterous group of drag performers in the trans community in Puerto Rico. 

Screens at The Flight Deck. 

The Basics 

The Matatu festival has added some robust partners this year in the form of KQED, The Registry, the Impact Hun and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 

Tickets begin at $12 for a single screening. 

A Matatu Pass - $72 guarantees reserved seating, priority admission to all screenings, an invitation to the festival's launch and closing parties and a commemorative poster. (Note: Only 25 are available.) 

For online tickets and more information, visit www.matatufestival.org 

Tickets are available for sale online and cash/charge at the box office: Owl N Wood, 45 Grand Avenue, Oakland. Open from11-6, Monday-Friday. 

For more information email info@broaklyn.org, call 510-497-0777 or visit www.matatufestival.org.

Merola Opera Presents André Previn’s A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday July 11, 2014 - 01:49:00 PM

Composer André Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire, based on the play by Tennessee Williams, received a scaled-down presentation on Thursday, July 10, as the opener of Merola Opera Program’s 2014 season. Previn’s Streetcar, which was commissioned by San Francisco Opera under former General Director Lotfi Mansouri, received its world premiere at the War Memorial Opera House in 1998 with a huge orchestra of 70 instrumentalists. Peter Grunberg, who serves as Michael Tilson Thomas’ personal music assistant and also as a musical coach at San Francisco Opera, thought Previn’s top-heavy orchestration of Streetcar was both unnecessary and a formidable obstacle to performances of this opera. So Grunberg, at the urging of conductor Mark Morash, undertook to reduce the orchestra from 70 to 40 players. It was this new, scaled-down version that was presented, under the baton of Mark Morash, at Everett Auditorium in the Mission.

I must confess that I have never understood the admiration many people profess to have for Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. It combines an over-the-top hysterical woman, Blanche Dubois, and a brutally violent man, Stanley Kowalski, in a farrago of lies, deceit and downright stupidity that culminates in a brutal rape. In creating an opera from this unwholesome hodgepodge, Composer André Previn was very faithful to the play’s text. And therein, as I see it, lies half the problem. Previn composed jazz-inflected ‘conversational’ music; but it is extremely difficult music for the vocalists to sing, for they are forever singing against rather than with the orchestra.

This being said, however, it was the singers who came out best in the opening night performance of Merola’s Streetcar. As Blanche Dubois, a role written for Renée Fleming, soprano Julie Adams was a vocal standout, hitting all the right notes, and offering an appropriately affected acting style that summed up the character of Blanche as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In the role of Stanley Kowalski, baritone Thomas Gunther made the best of the few extended passages his character gets to sing; but he was dramatically believable as the brutal husband of Blanche’s sister, Stella. Adelaide Boedecker had some lovely moments as Stella, her soprano voice giving eloquent expression in a wordless vocalise to the sexual fulfillment she finds in her marriage with Stanley. Tenor Casey Candebat was outstanding as Mitch, the workmate of Stanley’s who falls naively in love with Blanche only to learn the truth about Blanche’s past when the suspicious Stanley ferrets out his sister-in-law’s dark secrets. The ensuing confrontation between a drunken Mitch and Blanche is the highlight of the opera, for when Mitch shouts that he has never really known her and now sees the reality, Blanche retorts, “Who wants the real? I want Magic.” 

This “I want magic” aria is one of the few truly lyrical passages in this strident, jagged opera. Here Blanche lays out her desire for a dream-self that bears little relation to humdrum and often-sordid reality. Perhaps, in the end, it’s this magical transformative quality in Blanche that so appeals to people like, for example, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, who celebrated Blanche’s character in his film Todo sobre mi Madre/All about My Mother. Blanche Dubois, like Almodóvar’s cinematic characters, tenaciously believes till the end, even as her fragile hold on reality disintegrates, that there is more truth in dreams than in stark reality. 

In the role of Eunice Hubbell, Stella’s upstairs neighbor, mezzo-soprano Eliza Bonnet gave a fine performance; and as her husband, Steve, tenor Benjamin Werley gave a creditable account of this minor role. Tenor Minglie Lei was effective as the young boy who comes to collect money for the Kowalskis’ newspaper subscription, only to find himself the object of a sad and sordid seduction attempt by the ever more grasping Blanche. Mezzo-soprano Shirin Eskandani sang the role of the Mexican flower-vendor who sells flowers “for the dead,” herself a prefiguration of death. Finally, Baritone Alexander Elliott and soprano Amanda Woodbury sang the roles of the doctor and nurse who arrive at the end of the opera to take the unsuspecting Blanche away to a mental institution. 

Stage Director Jose Maria Condemi did an excellent job of moving his characters around the set of the two-room Kowalski apartment. Particularly effective were the many exits and entrances through the bathroom door; and this seems grimly appropriate given the dark nature of Tennessee Williams’ vision of humanity. Conductor Mark Morash gave a fine account of the opera’s score, though I must say that I do not like this edgy, often crude score. Nonetheless, it seems to me that this scaled-down version of Streetcar has got to be preferable to the full-fledged, over-the-top orchestral version originally penned by Previn. However, I don’t think I’ll ever be tempted to check out the original version. In fact, I doubt I’ll want to see Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire ever again, in whatever version.

Next Week at the Berkeley Arts Festival

Bonnie Hughes
Friday July 11, 2014 - 01:32:00 PM

Here are upcoming events in the Berkeley Arts Festival Space (2133 University, on the corner of Shattuck and University, next to University Hardware): 


Thursday, July 17th 2014

Marvin Sanders and Elaine Laguerta

Pianist Laguerta and flautist Sanders will perform works by Bach, Cesar Franck, and Godard. 8pm  


Friday, July 18th 2014

Jerry Kuderna Lunch Concert

Pianist Jerry Kuderna plays from classics to the newest compositions. 12 noon to 1:30pm,  


Ear Spray, Rubber ()) Cement, Aaron Oppenheim

8PM: Aaron Oppenheim - An American-Canadian Canadian-American currently based in Oakland, who improvises sounds from his laptop. His music straddles the line between noise, drone, and glitch, always emphasizing liveness and in-the-momentishness.

8:30PM: Rubber (() Cement - Realizes all tires as sentient animals covered in stamped hieroglyphs. The world is a reading surface-ribbon for any number of distributed microscopic eyes. 

9PM:Ear Spray - Synthesizing electronics, acoustic percussion, voice and videos into dynamic and strange aural landscapes and improvisations- Carlos Jennings - Electronics and Conduction,Ann O'Rourke - Vocals, Videos, Effects/Mixer, Percussion and "weird ideas” person, Mark Pino - Entertainer and Intense Percussionist 


Saturday, July 19th 2014

Ben Rivers "Shakin With Joy"

Through the joy of music, I'm excited to be able to share the experience and lessons I've learned about life and art through living with Parkinson's disease. With original songs, life vignettes, and poetry, I will take you on a journey through my particular approach to handling life's challenges and joys. It is my hope that you will have a great time, discover laughter, and leave the evening feeling lighter, happier, and with a sense of the unshakeable core we each have inside of us no matter what life throws our way.

For more about the artist, visit ben-rivers.com 6:30pm note early starting time  



Sunday, July 20th 2014

Trio Next - Moe! Thollem Mc Donas duo

8 pm
Trio Next
Charles Sharp - tenor saxophone
Jeff Schwartz - bass
Andrea Centazzo - percussion

Charles Sharp and Jeff Schwartz are active in the Los Angeles creative music scene, while Andrea has had a lengthy career working with Steve Lacy, Derek Bailey, John Zorn, and many other celebrated artists. 9 pm  

Moe! Staiano - percussion
Thollem McDonas - piano 

Pianist Thollem McDonas and drummer/percussionist Moe! Staiano are two adventurous musicians playing together for the first time. The two will do an improvisation set, with intense, fast rythyms, and no-holds barred playing.