The Week



Partial Settlement in Berkeley Balcony Suit

Jeff Shuttleworth (Bay City News)
Monday November 20, 2017 - 09:44:00 PM

A partial settlement has been reached with the owner and property manager of a Berkeley apartment complex for the deaths of six students and the injury of seven others when a balcony collapsed during a crowded party in 2015, lawyers for some of the plaintiffs said today. -more-

Berkeley Police Ask for Help in Finding Young Man Who May Be Suicidal

Bay City News
Wednesday November 22, 2017 - 09:33:00 PM

Police are asking for help tonight locating a missing Berkeley man who may be suicidal.

Officers are looking for Xavier Smith-Wilson, 20, who was last seen at 6:08 p.m. at 2870 Adeline St. near the Berkeley Bowl.

Smith-Wilson is a black man, 6 feet 2 inches tall, 175 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. -more-

Tiny Houses Ad Nauseam

Carol Denney
Wednesday November 22, 2017 - 09:30:00 PM

Tiny houses have no legal definition. This is no accident. You can gold plate the doorknob of a tiny house if you want to, but you don't have to. You don't have to provide heat, or plumbing, or windows that open, or have a closet, etc. You can plunk down a plastic tool shed or a cardboard box and charge money for it unless you have what California has: habitability standards. -more-

Berkeley Chamber Opera’s Stunning LUISA MILLER by Verdi

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:09:00 PM

Luisa Miller is often cited as the opera that inaugurated Giuseppe Verdi’s “second period.” After churning out fourteen operas during his self-styled “prison years,” Verdi definitely struck new ground in composing Luisa Miller. Adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s play Kabale und Liebe, with a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, Luisa Miller offered Verdi the opportunity to hold in check his earlier, ‘grandiose’ manner and to portray instead the lives and emotions of ordinary people.

Following their hugely successful productions of Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti ed I Montecchi and Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Consul, Berkeley Chamber Opera presented two performances of Verdi’s Luisa Miller, Sunday, November 12, and Saturday, November 18. Both performances were at Berkeley’s Hillside Club. At the November 18 performance I attended, I was struck by the high quality of singing by each and every cast member. Berkeley Chamber Opera’s founder, soprano Eliza O’Malley, sang the role of Luisa, and never has her superb vocalism been on better display than in this portrayal of an innocent Tyrolean country girl who, in Act I, falls in love with a young man who sweetly returns her love. In her Act II aria, “Tu, puniscimi, o Signore,” sung under great duress when forced to betray Rodolfo(initially known to her as Carlo) in order to save the life of her father, Eliza O’Malley’s village maiden suddenly takes on the grandeur of a prima donna. In the role of Rodolfo, tenor Salvatore Atti was nothing short of a revelation. A recent transplant to the Bay Area from Boston, where he graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music with a Master’s degree in opera performance, Atti possesses a robust, ringing tenor. Atti’s Act II aria “Quando le sere al placido” was the vocal highlight of this Luisa Miller. This, of course, is one of Verdi’s finest tenor arias, and it is richly scored, with chromatically shifting chords in the strings and a cello introduction plus a rippling clarinet in the accompaniment. Salvatore Atti invested this bitter lament with great intensity over the apparent betrayal by Rodolfo’s beloved Luisa. -more-

Pinchas Zukerman Shines in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:23:00 PM

On Thursday-Friday, November 16-17, veteran violinist Pinchas Zukerman returned to join with the San Francisco Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 from 1806. The results were outstanding. Most impressive of all was Zukerman’s masterful modulation of tone as he spun a gossamer thin, softly played tone on some of the highest notes of his register, while he also offered a brilliant and fulsome tone on other high notes in passages marked forte. Of course, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto presents a great many difficulties for the solo violinist, and the necessary modulation of tone may not be the greatest challenge one meets in this work. Through it all, Zukerman demonstrated superb mastery, whether in the fiery outbursts of the first movement cadenza or in the hushed high notes that seemed to float on the thinnest air, -more-

Christ Hijacked

Jagjit Singh
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 01:06:00 PM

It is encouraging that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, have finally spoken up and stated the accusations by victims of Roy Moore’s sexual predatory actions are credible. -more-

A Beautiful Experience

Harry Brill
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 01:03:00 PM

With Thanksgiving approaching I have been doing my usual holiday thing. I picked up six paper bags which I loaded with change that I have accumulated since last year. I also added a few dollar bills and inserted a holiday card. -more-

Combating Religious Terrorism

Lord (Indarjit) Singh of Wimbledon
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:47:00 PM

Recent terrorist outrages in Manchester and at London Bridge remind us that we have a lot to learn about the way religion can be manipulated to lead to the deliberate killing of innocents.

What generally passes for religion, is in fact a complex mix of superstition, rituals, culture, group history and uplifting ethical teachings. Ethical teachings are extremely easy to state, but difficult to live by, and in practice, greater emphasis is often placed on culture and rituals, and a perversely unifying belief, that God favours our faith over that of others.

This sort of arrogance is not new and has been evident throughout history. It has led to barriers of supposed superiority between our different faiths, and a naïve belief that the Creator of all that exists, has favourites, and takes sides regardless of merit. As Guru Nanak reminded us, the one God of us all is not the least bit interested in our different religious labels but in what we do to serve our fellow beings. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Learning How to Move On From Someone or Some Thing

Jack Bragen
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:27:00 PM

Millions of people are vulnerable because of the desire to connect with someone. This is why it has become lucrative for con artists to approach people over the internet, give a hard luck story while promising to become involved, and obtain money. Once the victim has wired all of their money to the con artist, abruptly, inevitably, the rip off artist is not interested any more. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday November 19, 2017 - 12:08:00 PM

Please mark your calendars for the November 28th City Council meeting. There are three Council meetings left before the winter holiday and they are all going to need our attention - November 28th, December 5th and December 19th -more-

Twitter Rumor of ICE Raid in Berkeley Claimed to be False

Janis Mara (BCN)
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:43:00 PM

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is working to dispel a claim tweeted this morning that Berkeley police cooperated in an alleged Immigration and Customs Enforcement action. -more-

Peter D. Solomon

Annette Herskovits
Thursday November 23, 2017 - 08:01:00 PM
Peter and Annette

EDITOR'S NOTE: In March of 2003, while we were engaged with a crew of friends in setting up what was to become the office of the newly revived Berkeley Daily Planet on South Shattuck, a guy I’d know for a while, though not well, dropped in to see what we were up to. I had a speaking acquaintance with Peter Solomon, but was well aware of his semi-miraculous reputation. We had both been, at different times, associated with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Pacific News Service and, I think, perhaps others, and we had many mutual friends.

Peter was at one point the manager of the ever-impecunious SFMT, and also, he wrote a play or two for them. When I was an editor at PNS, he was remembered in reverent tones for his editorial prowess. He was known in other circles as a printer and/or typesetter. And there was more, much more than I knew about.

In 2003 Peter was coming to terms with Parkinson’s disease. He had trouble walking, but mysteriously riding a bike was easier for him. Though he was a witty talker, he sometimes had difficulty articulating by that time, but such details didn’t slow him down at all.

I’d heard great tales of his term as editor of The Montclarion when it was a lively independent weekly, back before it was essentially deconstructed by an unfortunate series of corporate acquisitions. I was pretty sure he knew a lot more than I did about running a small-time local paper, and he was fun to have around.

So we asked him to join our staff. None of the conventional titles seemed to fit what we needed him to do: come to editorial meetings and tell what we were doing wrong, and what opportunities we were missing. Finally we came up with the right one: éminence grise: “ a person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position”, after the gray-robed monk who lurked at Cardinal Richelieu’s elbow.

As our éminence grise, he was the guy charged with nurturing “the vision thing.” During our difficult early years, he reminded us, when we had trouble remembering, why we were there. For a capsule discussion of what all this was about, see his graceful piece which ran at the top of Page One of the first issue of the revived Berkeley Daily Planet on April 1, 2003: Whose Berkeley?

Peter left Berkeley and this world in early October. Today, Thanksgiving Day, we are grateful that Peter shared so much of himself with us for as long as his health permitted, and we are very grateful to his faithful Annette, whose remembrance of him is below, for giving him so much joy and taking such wonderful care of him for so many years.

Peter passed away peacefully at home in the night of October 4/5.

He had been diagnosed with Parkinson disease 32 years ago. Only in the last four years did the illness become debilitating, with his mind and body failing him step by step. Several times, he expressed the wish to end it. When a hospital bed was brought to our house in the evening of October 3, Peter, who ordinarily refused medical contrivances and interventions, lay in it almost eagerly. He died 30 hours later with few moments of awareness. He had said to his daughter Rachel a few days before that he was not afraid of death, that it was just the next step.

Peter and I lived together for 40 years. Thanks to his love and patience, I progressively came out from the shadows of a holocaust childhood. I found a voice after many years of being silent.

Peter’s attention and generosity towards others were uncommon. He knew how to listen, how to comfort, how to provide helpful alternative viewpoints.

His mind worked in mysterious ways: he would grasp instantly what might take me days or months to figure out. This enabled him to skillfully edit books on most any topic: medicine, old English, economics, newspaper stories, etc. He wrote a play for a summer season of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, songs for their other plays, humorous political poems, etc.

He was so very funny. His humor was never cruel; instead, he made you see alternative sides of situations that most of us miss.

A journalist friend told me that Peter had been a mentor to a generation of progressive writers, a model for how to write and how to be a human being.

He remained true to his character throughout most of his illness— uncomplaining, available, insightful, funny… I feel so fortunate that we met and spent many years together.

There will be a memorial gathering in a few months. If you have memories of Peter that you would like to relate to me, I would much appreciate it. -more-



Slowing Down

Becky O'Malley
Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:19:00 PM

As I said in a recent email to my 25+ hyper-extended Bay Area family members, Thanksgiving has snuck up on us. There are so many things going wrong in the world at the moment that I can’t choose amongst them for something to write about, and I notice Bob Burnett reports similar sentiments. It’s time to put the Planet on a rolling schedule, at least through the holidays and maybe longer.

For authority I refer you to an editorial I wrote in 1993, citing a brilliant column by Ellen Goodman which still graces my refrigerator door, yellowed and crumbling. Her theme was that you can’t fax in a Thanksgiving dinner—and now faxes have mostly died, but the turkeys live on (well, not exactly, but you know what I mean.)

And about the rolling schedule idea: I seem to be wedded to (or stuck with) the legacy software which came with our original $14,000 purchase of the remains of the original Berkeley Daily Planet. But as we have adjusted to the all-online world, I notice that I’ve achieved something like what I wanted to do in the first place, back when I put my journalistic inclinations on hold, faced with the necessity of participating in the family tech enterprise. The print Planet was massive overkill.

I’ve always wanted to have a publication that was nothing but letters to the editor. I’ve always had a lot of friends who were both smart and pretty darn good writers, and by encouraging them to send along their informed opinions we’ve had a lot of great copy in the last—how many years has it been now since the print Planet died?

We've kept on posting some straight news when we had it. But with no paid staff we’re really out of the news biz.

There are several local-ish publications, both online and in print, which try to keep an eye on Berkeley news. Overall, they do a credible job, so we don't need to.

We’ve maintained a subscription to the Bay City News Service on behalf of our readers, and they do good reporting too. Our regular pro bono contributors produce a good mix of facts and opinion, which we deeply appreciate. Arts critics of all kinds are always welcome.

Our hereditary format requires occasional purges, which we call putting out “new issues” and have tried to do on Fridays. But access to past issues is easy due to our powerful Google-based archive search and the “Previous Issue” button on the home page. There’s no technical reason that new issues have to be always Fridays, or even weekly.

As an experiment, starting today I’m just going to leave current material up until I get tired of it. I'm going to tinker with the limits of the format and see if it can be improved or at least better used. Let me know what you think.

Have yourself some happy holidays, whichever ones you enjoy. More fun, less fuss, might be a good plan.

And if you'd like me to send you links when new pieces are posted, just write to to get on the list. -more-

Public Comment

The Fastest Thing in the Universe

Bruce Joffe
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:58:00 PM

The fastest thing in the universe is the speed of light. Nothing can go faster than 186,282 miles per second. That adds up to 5.88 trillion miles per year. At that speed, light from the nearest star, 25 trillion miles away, takes 4.25 years to reach us.

The national debt exceeds $20 trillion. That is $633,612 dollars per second, 3.4 times the speed of light. Interest charges alone on our national credit card amount to $215,000 Million this year. The Republican tax plan would deepen the debt $1,700 Million by lowering taxes for big corporations and the richest people. Their plan's debt would go even deeper, except they are also raising taxes on middle-class earners and revoking the financial obligations for affordable healthcare. -more-

The Epidemic of Age Discrimination

Harry Brill
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:52:00 PM

Several years ago researchers at Princeton University discovered a very unusual development. We have been accustomed to expect that as the years go by each generation lives longer than the previous one. However, these researchers discovered an anomaly, that the longevity of middle age whites -- ages 45-54 --has declined precipitously. The research showed that their marginal connection to the labor force -- high unemployment, low paying and temporary jobs -- has been causing them considerable pain and distress, which in turn has triggered poor mental and physical health. High suicide rates, overdosing on drugs, and alcoholism have resulted in a high death rate. The researchers, appropriately, call this phenomena "deaths of despair".

Yet the government's business friendly Department of Labor apparently doesn't see any serious problem for middle age workers. Its Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), serves as the principle fact finding agency for the federal government. According to the BLS statistics on the labor force, the unemployment rate last month of middle age workers (45-54) is only 2.7 percent. That is lower than the unemployment rate of any other age group. Incredibly, had the Agency's figures included only white middle age workers, the official unemployment rate would be even lower. If the BLS data was accurate, these white workers would be dancing in the street rather than suffering a miserable life and a higher death rate. -more-

Let the Sage Grouse Plan Work

Vera Brown
Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:06:00 PM

Secretary Zinke has opened the door to putting politics over science in order to undermine and undo one of the greatest collaborative conservation efforts in our nation's history. As a westerner, I am deeply concerned about this reopening of federal plans to protect the greater-sage grouse, which were forged over many years by multiple stakeholders. -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Living with the Cognitive and Social Deficits of Some People with Schizophrenia, And Trying to Reintegrate

Jack Bragen
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:46:00 PM

Most people who have a psychiatric condition would rather not be defined by it. It is an unhappy thing to view oneself as "someone with mental illness" rather than as "an individual"-- who defines oneself by her or his career, ethnicity, family, and socioeconomic status.

The fact of being a mental health consumer, possibly one who does not have a job, children, a house, already puts us at a social disadvantage. When there is a conversation in a social context, the first thing that comes up is "What do you do?" How is an unemployed person with a psychiatric disability supposed to answer that question?

Additionally, those with schizophrenia could be socially impaired for other reasons, not excluding causes related to brain structure.

Both inability to socialize, and having social anxiety can cause a lot of awkwardness--which some people could misinterpret as obnoxiousness. This is where something like Facebook can potentially help. Social anxiety may not come up as much when one is in the comfort of one's home, rather than seeing people face to face. -more-

ECLETIC RANT: Brief summary of Alabama’s special election

Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:55:00 PM

The Washington Post published a blockbuster investigative piece alleging that Roy Moore, the bigoted, right-wing extremist Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl while he was in his 30s and preyed on at least three other teenagers.

The age of consent in Alabama is sixteen.

Later, another woman came forward with her story of being assaulted by Moore.

Senate Republicans are escalating their demands for Moore to leave the race, including a growing faction calling for him to be expelled if he wins next month. Some have suggested that republicans write in Luther Strange, the person Moore defeated in the primary. -more-

Arts & Events

Berkeley Chamber Opera Finale Saturday Night at 7

Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:11:00 PM

Luisa Miller, by Giuseppe Verdi

Opera in Italian with English supertitles, with chamber orchestra

Sunday Nov 12th, 2pm, Saturday November 18th, 7pm

Berkeley Hillside Club
2286 Cedar St. (at Arch), Berkeley

Tickets: $35 general, $20 Students/Seniors, Children under 12 free

Buy online from Brown Paper Tickets, by phone, 1-800-838-3006. -more-

AROUND & ABOUT--Dance: Mary Sano & Her Duncan Dancers' Sunday Evening Salon Concert

Ken Bullock
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:48:00 PM

"Life is the root, and art is the flower." ~ Isadora Duncan

Mary Sano, who has been keeping the spirit of Isadora alive the past two decades in her Studio of Duncan Dance just a few blocks from the great pioneer of modern dance's birthplace, has returned from teaching and performing in Japan & will be hosting the third of her recent salon concert series this Sunday evening at 6.

Besides Mary performing with her Duncan Dancers, the program will feature singer-songwriter Tony Chapman from LA with his new compositions.

Sunday, November 19 at 6 p. m. at the Mary Sano Studio of Duncan Dance, 245-5th Street, studio 314, between Howard & Folsom, San Francisco. Suggested donation: $20-$30 (Admission includes an entry for the anniversary raffle--all proceeds go to the Studio's 20th anniversary performance project this coming June.) or: (415) 357-1817 -more-

William Christie and Les Arts Florissants Perform Charpentier and Purcell

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 17, 2017 - 03:01:00 PM

If you search in the catalogues of classical recordings under Marc-Antoine Chapentier, you will find that William Christie’s ensemble Les Arts Florissants gets highest marks for their recordings of this 17th century French composer’s output, both the sacred works and the operas. Often, Christie’s group is the only one to have recorded these works. In short, William Christie has almost single-handedly resurrected Marc-Antoine Charpentier from oblivion, even taking the name of his group Les Arts Florissants from a musical idyll of that title by Charpentier. So how appropriate it is that for this visit to Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall on November 9 under the auspices of Cal Performances, William Christie led off the program with Charpentier’s Actéon, a tragédie en musique in the style of Lully, Charpentier’s illustrious predecessor at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles? Actéon recounts the Greek myth of a great Theban hunter named Actéon who chanced to glimpse Artemis (Diana in Charpentier’s version) bathing nude in a spring with her company of nymphs, and as punishment was transformed into a stag and torn to pieces by his own hunting hounds. -more-

Tetzlaff Quartet Plays Mozart, Berg, and Schubert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 17, 2017 - 02:59:00 PM

The Tetzlaff Quartet, formed in 1994, is comprised of Christian Tetzlaff as first violinist, Elisabeth Kufferath as second violinist, Hanna Weinmeister as violist, and Tanja Tetzlaff as cellist. On Sunday afternoon, November 12, under the auspices of Cal Performances the Tetzlaff Quartet gave a concert at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall in which they played Mozart’s String Quartet No. 16 in E-flat Major, K. 428, Alban Berg’s String Quartet, Op. 3, and Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 in G Major, D. 887. All three of these quartets were written by composers in Vienna: Mozart’s in 1784, Berg’s in 1910, and Schubert’s in 1826. -more-