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Press Release: Berkeley Police identify one shooting victim

Ofc. J. Coats, BPD
Wednesday December 31, 2014 - 05:05:00 PM

On Monday, December 29, 2014 at approximately 9:45 p.m. BPD received multiple 911 calls of a shooting in a parking lot in the 1900 block of San Pablo Avenue. Police and Fire personnel responded to the scene. A male and female victim was located, suffering from gunshot wounds. The male victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. The other victim, a 28 year old female, was transported to a local hospital for treatment, she is currently in stable condition.

The male victim has been identified as Kamahl Middleton, 36 years old.  


BPD is urging anyone with information about this incident to please call the Homicide Detail at 510-981-5741, or our non-emergency number at 510-981-5900. If a person wishes to remain anonymous, he/she can call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477). Any information may be critical to solving this crime.

Flash: Two shot, one dies in parking lot on San Pablo in Berkeley--suspect still at large this morning

Bay City News and Planet
Tuesday December 30, 2014 - 09:15:00 AM

The suspect or suspects in the third homicide in Berkeley this year are still at large, a Berkley Police Department spokeswoman said this morning.  

The killing took place at about 9:45 p.m. Monday in a parking lot in the 1900 block of San Pablo Avenue, said spokeswoman Jennifer Coats.  

Northbound San Pablo Avenue is was closed between University and Hearst avenues, Coats said, but it is now open. 

Investigators are conducting interviews, following up on leads and examining evidence.  

In the shooting, one person died and another person was injured. Police did not have any information as to the condition of the injured person. 

Police will not be releasing the name of the deceased until after his family has been notified.  

Anyone with information about the incident is being asked to call the police department's homicide detail at (510) 981-5741 or the department's non-emergency number at (510) 981-5900.  

Anyone wishing to make an anonymous tip can call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

New: Berkeley's Elmwood Theater will show "The Interview" tomorrow

Jeff Burbank (BCN)
Wednesday December 24, 2014 - 05:18:00 PM

At least 10 theaters in the Bay Area and Monterey Bay regions, including the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley, plan to show the controversial comedy "The Interview" on Christmas Day since Sony Pictures Entertainment announced it would release the film despite an online group's threats to harm patrons. 

Movie houses in Berkeley and Livermore in Alameda County, Pittsburg and Martinez in Contra Costa County, Fairfax in Marin County, Monterey in Monterey County, San Jose in Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley in Santa Cruz County and Petaluma in Sonoma County plan screenings, according to theater websites. 

Sony last Wednesday pulled "The Interview," a movie about an American plot to assassinate North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, from its scheduled Christmas Day national release after theater managers across the country decided not to show it in response to threats of violence from an online group called the Guardians of Peace. 

The group, allegedly from North Korea, was offended by the movie's storyline about a plan to kill the country's dictator and said in an online statement Dec. 16 that it would kill people going to see the 111-minute movie. 

The action by Sony drew widespread criticism, including from President Barack Obama, for giving in to terrorists. Then on Tuesday, company chief executive officer Michael Lynton announced that the film would be offered for limited release as originally planned this Thursday to theaters that wanted to show it. 

In Pittsburg, Amanda Daoud, manager of the Maya Century Plaza 16, said that while few tickets for "The Interview" have been sold so far for showings at 6:30 p.m., 9:45 p.m. and 10:35 p.m. Thursday, she has seen a growing excitement about it among posters on the theater's Facebook page. 

"I think with the stories in the news, people will want to see it to see what's it all about," Daoud said. 

The theater always has armed guards providing security on site and they would escort out anyone trying to disrupt the screening, but "I don't think we're going to have any issues" with protesters, she said. 

Daoud said she anticipates the 16-screen theater will be busy all Christmas Day and "Friday and Saturday might be busier." 

"I think everyone just wants to have a good time -- it's Christmas weekend," she said. 

Other theaters listing showings of "The Interview" on Thursday include the Elmwood 3 in Berkeley, Livermore 13 Cinemas in Livermore, Contra Costa Stadium Cinemas in Martinez, Fairfax Theater 6 in Fairfax, the Osio in Monterey, Camera 3 in San Jose, the Del Mar in Santa Cruz, CineLux Scotts Valley in Scotts Valley and Boulevard Cinemas in Petaluma. 

"The Interview," starring actors Seth Rogen, James Franco and Randall Park as Kim, was also made available via online streaming video starting today, according to Google officials. 

The company wrote in a statement posted on its website today that "we could not sit on the sidelines and allow a handful of people to determine the limits of free speech in another country (however silly the content might be)." The movie is available for rent or purchase on Google Play and YouTube and will also be available to Xbox Video customers and at www.seetheinterview.com.

Dead man was U.C. Berkeley student

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN
Tuesday December 23, 2014 - 05:22:00 PM

A 20-year-old man who was found dead in the heart of the University of California at Berkeley's fraternity and sorority residential area early Saturday morning was from San Ramon, according to online posts. 

Apoorve Agarwal was a junior at UC Berkeley pursuing a double major in applied mathematics and economics, according to the website of Law In Practice, a student-run organization for people who are interested in law but want more information about the field. 

Agarwal, who graduated from Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon in 2012, was a general officer on the organization's executive team and in his free time he enjoyed traveling, music and movies, according to the group's website. 

Officers who responded to reports of an unresponsive male in the 2500 block of Piedmont Avenue, between Dwight Way and Parker Street, found Agarwal dead shortly before 4 a.m. on Saturday, Berkeley police said. They said they are investigating his death as suspicious. 

It doesn't appear that foul play was involved in Agarwal's death and alcohol may have been a factor, police said. 

Another 20-year-old man, Vaibhev Loomba, a student at UC Davis, was found dead at the Zeta Psi fraternity at 2728 Bancroft Way, about four blocks away from where Agarwal was found, at about 12:10 p.m. on Nov. 9. Berkeley police also classified Loomba's death as suspicious but haven't released any additional information since he was found. 

According to his LinkedIn profile, Agarwal was a finance intern at Advance Micro Devices and Northwestern Mutual and an internet marketing intern at Krypton Consulting Inc. in Newark and also had an externship at the Merrill Lynch brokerage firm in San Jose. 

According to his Facebook profile, Agarwal spoke Hindi, Spanish and English.

Flash: Berkeley Police report deceased youth found in 2500 block of Piedmont

Jamey Padojino (BCN)
Saturday December 20, 2014 - 03:52:00 PM

Berkeley police are investigating the suspicious death of a man found outside his home early this morning, a police spokeswoman said. 

Officers responded to a report of an unresponsive male in the 2500 block of Piedmont Avenue shortly before 4 a.m., Berkeley police Officer Jennifer Coats said. 

Berkeley police officers and firefighters arrived to the scene where they found a 20-year-old man dead, Coats said. 

The man was identified as Berkeley resident Apoorve Agarwal, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau. 

Foul play does not appear to be a factor and alcohol may have played a role in the death, according to Coats. 

Police did not release further details this afternoon.

Troubles in Berkeley's Redwood Gardens

Lydia Gans
Thursday December 18, 2014 - 10:15:00 AM

The residents of Redwood Gardens are experiencing a disruption in their lives that they seem to be powerless to affect. Redwood Gardens at 2951 Derby Street is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing complex of 169 apartments for low income seniors and people with disabilities. The management company, CSI Support and Development, has been making decisions and taking actions and ignoring any input from the residents. Complaints, questions, requests are often simply ignored. They have converted a popular community room into offices for their staff. They are changing garden areas against the residents' wishes. Most recently they have converted a pleasant sun room into a laundry in spite of vehement protests by the residents. One long-time resident commented bitterly, “There is increasing enmity between the residents and management.”

Now they have embarked on a huge project that will disrupt the residents' lives for a long time to come. With a zero interest loan from HUD, CSI will do major renovations throughout the complex. The process will certainly be extremely long and stressful. And it is not at all clear what, if any benefit there will be for the tenants. It appears to be more in the interest of the management. Board member Eleanor Walden suggests that “The only reason for this renovation is to raise the value of corporate owned multi-family low income housing because the senior/low income population is the fastest growing population and as such it is potentially a highly profitable commodity in the future.” It turns out that similar projects are also going on in other HUD housing complexes. 

Management announced that their plan is to renovate one unit at a time, spending one day on each. The plan is to make a number of changes - remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, replacing cabinets and shelves, possibly floors, etc. – expecting to complete a whole unit all in one working day! (They are quickly finding out that this is almost impossible.) The residents have to move their belongings out for the day and there is no plan in place to provide them with assistance. Even if all this were possible, with 169 apartments and taking account of weekends and holidays the stress and disruption in peoples' lives is will go on for more than the next 8 months. 

The process started only about a month ago and complaints are coming from upset and angry tenants whose units have already been worked on. Having been alerted to what was happening and writing about earlier tenant protests I have been keeping in touch with Eleanor Walden and others who are sharing with me reports of their experiences. 

The difficulty of communication with management that has been an issue for a long time is intensified with many unexpected changes the tenants have not been prepared for. Nor do they have any control of the workers who are making these changes. This was brought up in many of the reports. Cecile Earle had the the work done in her apartment but then, she writes, “in case no one realizes not one of us was told the process, they leave with painting still to do … on a random day they show up and tell you they are going to paint.” 

The expectation that the tenants remove their belongings from the unit for the day raises another major problem, particularly for those who are disabled. To pack the contents of cabinets and closets in boxes and carry them in and out can be an impossible task. And they clearly cannot afford to or be expected to pay for helpers to do it for them. The question is being raised whether this is not a violation of ADA rules but so far no one has pursued it. Wheel chair user Peni Hall failed to remove belongings from her closet and found everything dumped in a disorderly pile in her living room. She posted a photo of it. 

It's hardly a surprise that completing an apartment remodeling will take more than one day. By now for some it has been going on not for days but for weeks. Some people are getting desperate. People cannot organize and put away their belongings while waiting for new shelves to be built. Kitchen remodeling is a major operation and would take several days even if the work is done without interruptions which is not the case. Without access to their kitchens, for people with limited incomes and limited mobility getting adequate meals presents serious problems. 

Situations like this, where one's living space is in disarray and there is no way to know when it will end would be stressful even for a young able bodied person with the resources to employ the necessary help. Eleanor Walden's remodeling is going on for almost two weeks and she has not been able to use her kitchen. She is severely depressed. She says “My life has been disrupted to the extent that I do not see how to put any meaning back into living.” 

Peni Hall found a number of accessibility problems with the changes being made in her kitchen. She sent a detailed message to manager Mary Kirk more than a week ago listing the changes needed to make the kitchen compliant with ADA requirements. She received no response. For almost 2 weeks she has not been able to stay in her apartment. She just sent another message. “This situation is taking a toll on my health - I need to sleep in a special adjustable bed and without it I am having major back problems … This is a major stressor - I am having twice as many migraines ... (H)aving a hard time with the chemical smell from the renovation.” Hall is an artist and she writes “I am having a hard time conducting the business of my life - I have no access to my desk or art table, messages are going astray ...” 

Not everyone has been having such traumatic experiences but the problem of communication with management has not improved. The threat of not cooperating would “jeopardize your tenancy” has been seen by several residents. For seniors or disabled individuals with limited incomes having to find alternative housing if they were evicted would be exceedingly difficult. People are careful how they express themselves. One person wrote”My cabinets look good” and she added “I could have lived with the old.” And that's the question - “who decided, and why, they cannot live with the old?


The Editor's Back Fence

Slow Start

Friday December 19, 2014 - 03:11:00 PM

This issue of the Planet has gotten off to a slow start because our server was down for much of the past 24 hours. There are still some excellent pieces waiting to be posted, which will happen in due time, whenever that might be, given the holiday crush. Check in from time to time to see what's happening.

Public Comment

Police officers' death

Ron Lowe
Tuesday December 23, 2014 - 12:28:00 PM

Two police officers are gunned down in New York City and everyone is searching for meaning in these two senseless deaths; talking about everything but the obvious - the elephant in the room - It's the guns stupid! 

Two police officers who had spent years in a hazardous profession and survived. They both would still be alive if someone had just punched them out. No, it was bullets fired from guns that led to their deaths, or otherwise, they would be home spending the Christmas holidays with family and friends.

Peshawar Attack

Khalida Jamilah
Thursday December 18, 2014 - 10:15:00 AM

The same day Taliban gunmen attacked students in Peshawar my youngest sister received an honor roll award. I was wondering if this brutal incident happened to my sister, my heart would have been torn and she would not be standing at the podium cheerfully while holding the certificate. Instead, she would be lying on the ground in a pool of blood. 

As an older sister, I saw the students in the Peshawar school as my younger siblings too. An older sibling would have felt a pang in her heart when she found out her younger siblings died while striving for knowledge in order to pursue their dreams. I am angry and ashamed of these animals that were nothing but cold-blooded murderers. But it would be incorrect to even call them animals. I would not even call them animals because animals only function on their instincts and they do not have free will as humans do. I refuse to call these barbarians humans because they have neither logical sense nor compassion. Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani claimed the attack was justified because “the government is targeting [their] families and females [and] we want them to feel the pain.” If that was the motive, then he should have instructed his gunmen to attack the government official who attacked families and females of the Taliban members. 

If those extremists associate their ideology with Islam, as a Muslim let me scream loudly that Islam emphasizes education for both men and women and condemns creating disorder or even taking one’s life. The mastermind of Taliban clearly did not understand a simple metaphor of how a fire cannot be put out by fire. The Pakistani Taliban is simply degrading their human sense with a non-sense ideology. 

I wonder if Pakistani officials will bring justice to this unspeakable crime and put the Taliban leader and those responsible for this attack in lifetime imprisonment or given the death penalty. I beseech the Pakistani j government and its judicial system to punish the perpetrators in the strongest manner possible. The least I can do is pray for the victims--my fellow human beings and fellow knowledge seekers. 

Khalida Jamilah is a UC Berkeley undergraduate majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is also a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Writers Association


In Elizabeth Warren we trust

Bob Burnett
Friday December 19, 2014 - 03:19:00 PM

A recent Pew Research poll found that only 24 percent of Americans trust the government in Washington. This says a lot about US politics, but it doesn’t answer the question: which politicians can we trust? 

Trust in the federal government reached its zenith in 2001, just after 9/11, and has been declining since. It descended to the twentieth percentiles at the beginning of the great recession and has remained there. (A December Gallup poll studied the most “trustworthy” US professions. The bottom two professions were “Members of Congress” and “Lobbyists.”) 

Pew Research observed that all segments of the American political spectrum do not trust the federal government. However, trust is lowest among conservatives (7 percent among “Steadfast Conservatives” and 16 percent among “Business Conservatives”) and highest among liberals (39 percent among “Faith and Family Left” and 32 percent among “Solid Liberals”). 

This Pew finding helps us understand the difference in voting patterns in the 2014 mid term elections. Conservatives, who had high voting rates, went to the polls to “get the bastards out.” On the other hand, liberals, who had low voting rates, weren’t as motivated. In key states, many Democratic candidates lost because their base didn’t bother to vote. Writing in the Washington Post, political scientists Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov observed, “The Democrats… lost in part because they could not depend on their own supporters to encourage their friends to turn out and vote Democratic.” 

In addition to differential voting rates, low trust in the federal government explains the frequent complaint that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans. While there are important values and policies differences between the two parties, many voters believe that the culture of Washington corrupts whoever is sent there. Conservative commentator Chuck Baldwin observed, “The truth is, who we send to Washington, D.C., with very few exceptions, hasn't made a dime's worth of difference in decades… No matter which [Party] wins, establishment insiders get the prize, and the American people get the shaft.” 

Nonetheless, within the Washington political culture there’s a critical distinction between the insiders and outsiders. In her most recent book, “A Fighting Chance,” Senator Elizabeth Warren recounts a spring 2009 conversation with Larry Summers then President Obama’s most senior economic adviser: 

[Summers said] I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas… But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.
Warren chose to be an outsider. 


Senator Warren’s outsider credentials were prominently displayed during the recent congressional vote on the $1.1 trillion 2015 spending bill(called “Cromnibus” because it was a combination “omnibus bill” and a “continuing resolution”.) The most controversial aspect of the bill was a provision designed by Citibank that guts a portion of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. On December 12th, Senator Warren blasted this rider: 

The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts. And yet here we are -- five years after Dodd-Frank – with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing… but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again…. Enough is enough. Washington already works really well for the billionaires and big corporations and the lawyers and lobbyists. But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citi bet big on derivatives and lost?... We were sent here to fight for those families, and it’s time – it’s past time – for Washington to start working for them.

Mother Jones columnist Kevin Drum explained that insider Democratic negotiators permitted the revision to the Dodd-Frank “in exchange for more funding for the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.” Drum quoted Democratic negotiator Jim Moran, “In 20 years of being on the appropriations bill, I haven’t seen a better compromise in terms of Democratic priorities… we got virtually everything that the Democrats tried to get.” 

Writing for the Campaign for America’s Future Robert Borosage made the progressive case against Cromnibus: 

[It] guarantees another year of growing inequality and declining security for most Americans. Once more, vital investments are shortchanged. Once more, austerity is favored over jobs. Once more, the bill is larded with what the [Washington Post] calls “regrettable, not cataclysmic” special interest giveaways.

The negotiations over Cromnibus show why Americans don’t trust the government in Washington. While no sensible citizen wants the Federal government to shut down, most of us are sick of special-interest giveaways. Someone has to stop them. 

Progressives will remember the fighting words of Senator Warren, “We were sent here to fight for [middle class] families, and it’s time – it’s past time – for Washington to start working for them… Enough is enough.” Warren remains a Washington outsider and, therefore, she’s a politician we can trust. 

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





Senate torture report released, but does the American public really care?

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday December 18, 2014 - 06:08:00 PM

I, for one, applaud the release of the Senate Torture Report and urge those responsible be held accountable. Kudos to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, for getting the executive summary released to the public.

The Report is available online. The print version is available for purchase at GPO’s retail and online bookstore.

The Senate Torture Report found, among other things, that the CIA misled Congress, the Justice Department and President George W. Bush about the “effectiveness” of torture methods used, including waterboarding, shackling detainees in painful positions, prolonged sleep deprivation, rectal feeding and slamming detainees against walls. The report also found that those abuses did not help locate Osama bin Laden or thwart any terrorist plots, and were in fact counterproductive. 

The release of the Report should have reminded Americans that human torture is not only morally unacceptable – it is also a crime. But too many Americans believe themselves superior to other countries and thus, anything we do to protect our country’s national interests, including torture, is somehow justifiable. By using torture, we lose any moral or ideological advantage we might have including the promotion of democracy, freedom, and human rights. 

I would have expected the public to be outraged by the Report’s findings and that there would be widespread calls for the scalps of those responsible. Sadly, polls indicate this is not the case. One poll shows that a majority — by almost 2-1 margin, or 59-31 percent — of Americans believe that harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects are justified, and contrary to the Report’s findings, believe torture produces valuable intelligence. 

Another poll shows that 52 percent of Americans believe that “making a report that details the use of torture against terrorist suspects by the American government” hurts U.S. interests more than “the use of torture against terrorist suspects by the American government.” Only 29 percent of Americans said that torture itself was more harmful to U.S. interests than releasing the Report. 

Moreover, when Americans were asked about suspected terrorists “who may know details about future attacks against the U.S.,” only 24 percent are prepared to say the use of torture is “never” justified. Nearly as many – 20 percent – said the use of torture is “always” justified, while the remainder said it’s either “sometimes” (28 percent) or only “rarely” (18 percent) justified. A total of 66 percent of American are unwilling to rule out the use of torture. 

Perhaps the American public has heard so many reports of our government’s use of torture — Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib — that too many have become desensitized to it, even condoning its use. 

I ask then, how could a country with a Judaic-Christian heritage even consider torture justifiable? But then, I remember that many torture methods were invented during the Roman Catholic Church inquisitions, that torture was also used during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and 1693 and that public lynchings of blacks during the 19th and 20th centuries often included burning and torture. 

Because the Senate Torture Report did not cause a public outcry, I would expect after a pause, our government will resume its use of torture even though there are far more productive methods for extracting information from suspected terrorists. 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Acknowledging Cause and Effect

Jack Bragen
Thursday December 18, 2014 - 10:26:00 AM

For people with mental illness, thinking in terms of miracles can worsen an already difficult predicament. When someone has suffered from psychosis, it is a step forward to think in terms of cause and effect and not to see oneself as immune to the repercussions of mistakes. Pragmatism can be healing. It is valuable to think in terms of our actions and words as often but not always creating the results we obtain. It is also useful to refrain from blaming anyone, including oneself, if a bad circumstance that we did not cause creates hardship.  

For example, if you have poor attendance or other problems too much in work situations, a reputation is developed, and eventually your job prospects dry up. If you take your car to an auto mechanic and you haven't in advance removed all of the potato chip wrappers and soda cans, it can be perceived as a sign of disrespect, and you might be dealt with accordingly. On the other hand, people can discriminate in their hiring, and a bad auto mechanic can rip us off.  

Thus, no one is immune to the cause and effect laws of the universe. This can be a sort of revelation for someone who suffers from mental illness. When we are young or underdeveloped, we may think we will have unlimited opportunities in our future and that what we do now will not affect the future. Unfortunately, such a belief is unreal.  

It wasn't until recent years, after decades of falling flat on my face (metaphorically speaking, usually) that I began to have clearer thinking and gained some understanding of how the world works.  

Despite other deficiencies in awareness, I have always been aware that gambling or playing a state lottery is delusional behavior. This is especially true if such a waste of time and money interferes with meeting your basic needs. I bought about three or four lottery tickets in the 1980's, when the California Lottery first came into being, and after wasting about five or ten bucks total, I stopped assuming that I was special and I gave up on it.  

Human health often operates under unforgiving physical laws. Overeating, smoking and lack of exercise will tend to produce a short lifespan. Other physical disease that is not always our fault can make us ill.  

Finances operate under laws of cause and effect; not paying rent when due causes a lack of housing. Accepting excessive credit card debt can lead to a financial crash. People can get laid-off of their job without a good reason, and this can cause life circumstances to collapse, if another job can't be obtained soon enough.  

In the social world there is also cause and effect; rudeness loses you friends. Someone badmouthing you behind your back, possibly through no fault of your own, can get you excluded--unfair but true.  

Failing to maintain oral hygiene leads to poor dental health which can cause a lot of suffering. Some contagious diseases can also wreck your teeth--so can heredity. Poor driving habits of you or of another driver lead to a car accident…and so on and so forth. Most of our actions or lack of them have results. Yet a bad turn of events isn't always anyone's fault.  

Mental illness isn't usually anyone's fault--it is usually something that just happens. 

The universe doesn't follow any expectation of fairness, and it operates by rules of cause and effect. This does not imply that you are doomed to fail at whatever you try. If you try to pursue a goal, you might surprise yourself with what you are able to do. 

On the other hand, sometimes a person just gets lucky. If you are a believer in the random probability of things and if you are an admirer of statistics, you should realize that, statistically speaking, almost everyone gets a few lucky breaks in their lifespan.  

The truism that we have all heard concerning the definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing and expecting different results," needs to be stretched a little bit. The saying: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," is also true some of the time. Regardless of which tack you choose, you should realize that if you try nothing, you are likely to get nothing.  

At this point, I am sort of retired except for my writing attempts. It just didn't work out for me to try to do the standard employment, and it was too hard to succeed in a small business. At this point in life, I no longer have the energy to do employment, and I am very limited by my illness and by being medicated. This doesn't rule out some type of future attempt--but not any time soon.  

We (including most of the readers) should consider ourselves fortunate, since there are many down and out people, who lack the options that I and some of the readers may have, and who may lack a place to sleep at night.  

Thus, unlike the speeches of "motivational speakers" I do not believe absolutely everyone is able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And unlike haughty, wealthy republicans, I do not believe that it is always a person's own fault if they are in a bad situation.  

In a final note to this week's column; we should not blame ourselves or feel shame when we acknowledge past actions that seem unwise, if we had acute symptoms of mental illness. Mental illness through no fault of our own distorts the perception of reality. When we finally recover enough, we may ask ourselves the question: "Was that really me?"  

Just to remind the readers I have books for sale on Amazon that would make a great holiday gift. 






Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Thursday December 18, 2014 - 10:20:00 AM

Oh, Joy… Jocelyn Ferguson, that is… and Kim Brewer too, staffing the reception desk, welcoming people as we entered the North Berkeley Senior Center recently. These two are old old-timers. There are other volunteers of course. 

For decades, Joy watched over the watering of the plants in the Center’s front yard. Kim was on hand following my first cataract surgery – my personal R.N. (Maggie Cheng was there too). Both Joy and Kim rent in senior housing—Strawberry Creek Lodge and Amistad; Maggie is now a home-owner.  

Two computer screens are also at the front desk. Seniors register in order to participate in Center activities and enjoy services and programs. This process takes attendance and replaces the daily clipboard with participants’ paper and pen[cil] signatures. So far, there has been no charge of which I’m aware, although some classes already require tuition. The Privacy Notice part of the registration packet concludes “You have the right to look at your record on file with the Senior Center …make a request in writing to: Senior Center Director…”  



On December 20, 2014 “holiday food baskets” will again be delivered to senior housing citizens who have signed up. This annual special is provided by the City of Berkeley Fire Department, Berkeley Fire Fighters Random, Albany, Berkeley and West Berkeley Lions Clubs, and the San Francisco Fire Credit Union, plus their volunteers. 

The Berkeley Public Library is introducing a “new service for the homebound—Books by Mail. We will send out books, movies and other library materials through the United States Postal Service. After use, patrons or caregivers simply mail the materials back to us with the convenient reusable packages. Pre-paid postage is included. Interested patrons need to fill out the ‘Application for Books by Mail.’ ” Also at the BPL’s website is an ‘Application for Extended Services for Library Patrons with Disabilities.’ This process may involve a “proxy.” Many senior citizens are homebound. Many senior citizens are disabled. Many are both. Having access to a personal computer (PC) will also greatly enhance their lives. 

The BPL has copies of Still Alice, a jargon-filled, 2007 “first novel” by Lisa Genova, who, holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, and has done research on the molecular etiology of depression, Parkinson's Disease, drug addiction, and memory loss following stroke. She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy, Support Network International and Dementia USA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's association.  

Still Alice is also a new motion picture, soon to be in theaters. Based on Genova’s novel but co-directed and written by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, it follows the deterioration of 51-year old linguistics professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s, who, with her husband and 3 children, must endure a cruel and absurd ordeal that has no real chance of growing easier. Alice slides from a witty, intelligent, capable adult into a fragile and confused shadow of her former self. Julianne Moore has received great praise. A. O. Scott (December 4, 2014 New York Times) refers to a powerful presentation of a mind falling to Alzheimer’s. “Still Alice is a movie that addresses a nightmarish circumstance with calm, compassionate sensitivity.”  









Arts & Events

Handel’s MESSIAH at Grace Cathedral

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 24, 2014 - 05:09:00 PM

Handel’s Messiah, that old chestnut (roasting on an open fire), has been performed in Grace Cathedral every Christmas season for the last 15 years by American Bach Soloists under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas. This year, once again, ABS brought together at Grace Cathedral four eminent singers, a choir of 36 choristers, and 34 orchestra members playing period instruments, all led by conductor Jeffrey Thomas in three performances of Handel’s Messiah, December 16, 18-19.  

Of all the Messiahs currently offered locally, (one by San Francisco Symphony, plus several Sing Along opportunities), the American Bach Soloists’ version in Grace Cathedral is definitely the one to see and hear. This is because, for starters, as mentioned above, ABS plays only period instruments. Secondly, ABS music director Jeffrey Thomas is a leading scholar on Baroque music and its interpretation. Thirdly, Grace Cathedral is both acoustically wonderful and an appropriately spiritual venue for listening to this most glorious of all religious oratorios. 

Handel himself was not outwardly religious as was his contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach. But, as Milton Cross notes, “Handel became the God-intoxicated man while writing the Messiah.” Shutting himself off from the world in his London house in 1741, seeing no one, eating and sleeping little, Handel composed this two and a half-hour oratorio in a mere 25 days. His servants feared he was going mad. When he completed the “Hallelujah Chorus” he exclaimed to his servants, “ I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.”  

Messiah is in three parts. The first presents the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. The second recounts the suffering and crucifixion of Christ. The con-cluding section deals with the Resurrection. As the Messiah begins, an instrumental Sinfony opens softly, with strings, trombones, bassoons, and organ playing a slow and stately orchestral prelude. A recitative for tenor, “Comfort ye,” sung here by Kyle Stegall, follows in somewhat sluggish fashion, followed by a vernal breath of fresh air in the tenor’s aria, “Ev’ry Valley shall be exalted.” With this note of optim-istic prophecy, the oratorio begins to take wing.  

In an accompanied recitative, the bass, sung here by baritone Jesse Blumberg, sings that God shall shake the earth and the sea; and Handel’s music quavers repeatedly on the word “shake.” Then an alto, sung here by countertenor Eric Jurenas, sings of good tidings to Zion. However, Jurenas was not able vocally to project the text and seemed lacking in power except in his high notes. However, a note of exaltation is reached in the chorus, “For unto us a Child is born;” and another high point occurs when the soprano, angelically sung here by Mary Wilson, delivers the aria, “Rejoice greatly.” Mary Wilson also concludes Part I of the Messiah with “Come unto him all ye that labour.” 

After intermission, Part 2 quickly features the mournful aria, “He was despised and rejected of men,” sung here by countertenor Eric Jurenas, who carried off this aria in fine voice. Between this aria and the famed “Hallelujah Chorus,” Handel’s music slackens noticeably in dramatic power; but this is more than com-pensated for in the unmatched power of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which ends Part 2. 

If one wonders whether Handel, following the sheer brilliance of the “Hal-lelujah Chorus,” could possibly continue to elevate the musical quality of this oratorio, the quiet aria for soprano, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” which opens Part 3, quickly reassures us that Handel has not yet reached even his own inspired heights. This serene aria, beautifully sung here by Mary Wilson, leads us into the third and final pert of the Messiah, offering a celebration of the Resurrection and its meaning for all mankind. Then, a recitative and aria for bass, “The trumpet shall sound,” powerfully sung here by baritone Jesse Blumberg and accompanied by a trumpet solo featuring John Thiessen, becomes yet another high point in this overwhelmingly powerful oratorio. Finally, a chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,” followed by the solemn “Amen Chorus,” brings this Messiah to a rousing close.