The Week



Press Release: Waste Pickup Schedule Pushed Back by a Day During Holidays

Matthai Chakko, City of Berkeley PIO
Thursday December 21, 2017 - 05:10:00 PM

There will be no refuse, recycling or compost collection on Christmas or New Year's days.

Following both holidays, residential curbside collection will be one day behind schedule for the remainder of the week for both December 26-30 and January 2-6.

For example, if Monday is your regular collection day, your holiday collection will occur on Tuesday. Tuesday pickup will occur on Wednesday and so on. Regularly scheduled Friday pickups will happen on Saturday.


SENIOR POWER: Holiday Connections

Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:30:00 PM

The Rippiers were new to America. Mid-19th century. The name refers to "one who carries fish inland to sell" rather than to something classy and perhaps French, as I for years was allowed to assume. Shades of Hyacinth Bucket and her riparian entertainments. But there’s more! In England it was also Ripper (as in Jack-The…). Perhaps it was changed in the New World, perhaps inadvertently, to Rippier. -more-

THEATER: 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' At Winter Solstice

Ken Bullock
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:26:00 PM

"If I do 'A Misummer Night's Dream' for a third time, I thought, I'll do it as a holiday offering, one set in pagan Greece!"

So said Rey Carolino, who is indeed staging the Ninjaz of Drama's third production of The Bard's madcap comedy of lovers, fairies and the Rude Mechanicals right now, not under the midsummer sky in an amphitheater, but ground zero holiday season, at the intimate Phoenix Theatre near Union Square in San Francisco.

Watching the Ninjaz do Shakespeare is always a little revelatory, at least due to the clarity of the text as performed--passages as spoken and expressed through gesture and staging leap out as though never heard before, or never in just that way.

Even more subtly, there's the satisfaction in a sense of plasticity of form, maybe Shakespeare's own secret weapon, here in the expert cutting of the script and in the direction of the ensemble, the relation of scenes playing off each other, and of the different storylines that tangle up together to make the comic confusion of three separate worlds--the lovers, who are of the upper class of Athens (including Duke Theseus--Christopher P. Kelly, courtier Philostrate, Lisa Bettini--and the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, Laurel Scotland-Stewart--and Hermia, damsel-in-distress Irina Dianova; Demetrius, a Wally Cox-like, bespeckled Joey Alvarado; Lysander, intrepid Federico Edwards; Helena, hilarious Brittany A. Kamerschen); the Rude Mechanicals, blue collar would-be thespians (Sheila Cress as Snug the Joiner; Pam Mangan as Francis Flute; Myles Wynn as Quince the actor-manager; Samantha Rasler as the bombastic Bottom the Weaver; Tracy Baxter as Snout the Tinker; Amanda Lee as Robin Starveling)--and the otherworldly fairies in the wood (Arcady Darter as Oberon; Tavi Carpenter as Titania, PoLina Litvak as the ibiquitous, grinning Puck, Lindsey Mitchell as Moth--and others in the cast doubling as the excellent fairy chorus).

So many interpretations of Shakespeare these days are just that--interpretations, usually taking the most abstruse anachronism and running with it. This production has its conceits, the term for concepts in Shakespeare's time--a midsummer's play for the winter holidays, the Mechanicals cross-cast as women led by a man--and most original, the lovers not younger, but mature, pushing middle age ...

All three premises are intriguing, adding perspective, even spin!, to the evening--but each gives an angle of view to the whole endeavor, not just a "twist," some distortion.

I've never seen the Ninjaz do Shakespearean comedy before, but rather those two archetypal tragedies, 'Hamlet' and 'Lear,' both excellently. I was concerned that 'Midsummer ... ' couldn't measure up, wouldn't be able to manage the comic lightness of touch. My concerns turned out to be empty. It's a wonderful evening of fantastic Shakespearean comedy. And as Carolino pointed out to me, "there are parts that are hardly comic!"--The Bard's other great secret weapon: a sometimes wild mingling of styles ...

What started out some years ago with Carolino directing Tennessee Williams plays and starting to pay close attention to language, then following a friend's suggestion to look into staging Shakespeare, has paid off--royally. The Ninjaz are a modest company, announcing in the program that they're nonprofessional. But their achievement isn't so modest. They're a true community theater, not the kind of hobbyist group that's often called that--modern Rude Mechanicals!-- But members of the community at large, moved to band together and explore theater, the work of our greatest playwright and poet--and who bring an admirable sincerity and determination to what they do. Whatever recognition they gather, in any case--it pays off.

Playing Fridays, Saturdays at 8 through December 30 at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (off Union Square between Geary and Post), 6th floor. $20-$25. -more-

Re Pepper Spray: an Open Letter to Berkeley City Council

Dr. James McFadden
Wednesday December 20, 2017 - 12:59:00 PM

Mayor and City Council,

As you proceed down the path of giving the Berkeley Police whatever tools of violence they demand, don't forget to consider police impunity and abuse of these pain compliance means of torture. The BPD has failed to acknowledge their role in the death of Kayla Moore and for their their violence against respected members of the community during the black lives matter protests, and have failed to even acknowledge racial profiling as documented in the CPE report. Last night you once again caved to the demands for additional police weapons by authorizing pepper spray use in crowds (thank you Cheryl, Kate, Kriss for voting against pepper spray). I suppose the next police demand will be for tasers when their tactics again fail and they blame the Council for not giving them enough "tools" of violence. -more-

Berkeley and “The Graduate” Fifty Years After

Steven Finacom
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:20:00 PM
The Victorian house at 2400 Dana which served as Dustin Hoffman’s boarding house in “The Graduate”.

This week of Christmas, 2017, it’s fifty years since the premiere of the movie “The Graduate” on December 21, 1967. While film and cultural critics have been musing about the role of the movie in American society, I’ve been looking into its connections to Berkeley for the past several months. -more-

The Long History of the Berkeley Civic Center

Harvey Smith, Author, Berkeley and the New Deal
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:46:00 PM

Berkeley Civic Center as a concept goes back over a hundred years. However, it is also self-evident that a great city deserves a great civic center. -more-



Sexual Sins: Are Contrition and Redemption Possible?

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:11:00 PM

Let’s start with three words: perspective, proportionality, process. We’ll get back to them.

In 1964, a few of us in Ann Arbor who’d met through our participation in the civil rights movement became concerned about what was going on in Southeast Asia. The president, Michigan’s senators and our local congressman were all Democrats, and the Democratic party was the strongest supporter of the main local civil rights issue, attempts to pass a fair housing law, so it seemed to make sense to enlist the party’s help in questioning the developing war in Vietnam, a place many of us had never even heard of.

The Democrats in Michigan in those days were dominated by industrial unions, particularly the United Auto Workers, and these unions by that time were right there with us when it counted for civil rights. But it was another story when it came to the growing anti-war movement.

Within the UAW, Millie Jeffrey, the first female department head in the Union, was a strong advocate both for civil rights and for stopping the growth of what was to be called the Vietnam War. But most of her fellow UAW leaders in 1964 were leary of opposing policies backed by “their” Democratic administration.

A notable exception was the UAW’s main man in Congress, elected from Detroit in 1964 with union backing, a young lawyer named John Conyers.

Congressman John Conyers was an early and stalwart participant in the anti-war movement, both in public and behind the scenes, in a position where he could easily have faced primary opposition within the Democratic party if he annoyed the union moguls. He took a chance and stood up for what he thought was right.

It goes without saying that as an African-American he was also a strong civil rights advocate. He hired the fabled Rosa Parks as an aide, dispatching her to tell schoolchildren all over the Detroit area about her history in The Movement, including my daughters.

And yes, though I never met him myself, John Conyers was also rumored to be devastatingly attractive to women, and also strongly attracted by them, to a fault. That’s right, that John Conyers. And here’s where we get to the perspective part of the story.

Does occasional lewd, lascivious or perhaps just flirtatious behavior, even with yes, some unwelcome touching, which is all that John Conyers has been accused of to my knowledge, cancel out a long and distinguished career of fighting for important causes?

Maybe, maybe not. Perspective. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

What's new in this issue?

Sunday December 17, 2017 - 10:56:00 PM

If you'd like to make sure that you don't miss anything, you can add your name to our subscriber list. Just email and we'll email you links to whatever's been posted in the last seven days. We never share our subscriber list with anyone. -more-

Public Comment

Yemen Situation is Worse

Jagjit Singh
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 06:10:00 PM

The news from war-torn Yemen gets grimmer by the day. -more-

The Thriving Economy: Fact or Fiction

Harry Brill
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:50:00 PM

The press nationwide has been conveying the so called good news they received from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We learned that the economy is thriving and at full employment. Why? 228,000 jobs were created in November. According to the Federal Reserve, the nation is at full employment when the rate is at 5 percent. The November rate was even lower, at 4.1 percent. -more-

Sexual Assault is as American as Cherry Pie

Paula deJoie
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:42:00 PM

Kara Vaughn was the first person who ever told me she had been raped. It happened when she was about 14. She described being forcibly held down by one “friend” while another raped her. They took turns until they left her crumpled, inside and out.

I was a 17 year old freshman at UC Berkeley when I became friends with Kara.

She needed a place to stay. I was living with my grandmother and I talked her into letting Kara move in. We shared a room with twin beds, matching pink bedspreads covered with fuzzy little pink balls. -more-


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Turkey’s Looming Crisis

Conn Hallinan
Monday December 18, 2017 - 01:43:00 PM

Viewed one way, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks unassailable: He weathered last year’s coup attempt, jailed more than 50,000 opponents, fired more than 100,000 civil servants, beheaded the once powerful Turkish military, eviscerated much of his parliamentary opposition, dismissed almost half of the county’s elected officials, and rammed through a constitutional referendum that will make him an all-powerful executive following the 2019 election. In the meantime, a seemingly never-ending state of emergency allows him to rule by decree. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Make America Weak Again

Bob Burnett
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:37:00 PM

Humorist P. J. O'Rourke famously said, "Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it." After 11 months of total Republican control in Washington, the United States has been weakened across-the-board. Here are ten ways that Donald Trump and company have diminished American society. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: GOP tax overhaul: more Help for the rich

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:29:00 PM

The GOP finally got their tax bill -- touted as tax reform, But was it a "win" for the Republicans, and if it was, what did they win? A Gallup poll showed that only about 29% of American approve of the tax bill while 56% disapprove and 16% have no opinion. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Business of Living Disabled

Jack Bragen
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:35:00 PM

Living as a disabled adult is not as easy as you might think, unless you are categorized as incompetent. If incompetent, others handle all of your responsibilities, you do not have independence, there are a lot more restrictions, and life is relatively simple. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: Trump Should Resign

Bob Burnett
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 06:05:00 PM

The news story of the year has not been Donald Trump; it has been the "#MeToo" movement, where brave women denounced sexual assault and harassment. This movement brought down Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Now it has prompted new demands for Trump's resignation. -more-

SQUEAKY WHEEL: The Sexism Spectrum

Toni Mester
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:33:00 PM

Why do women have to be groped or raped before male dominance is recognized as systematic oppression? Because sexism spans a wide spectrum of behaviors, many of which are commonly tolerated as human nature or accepted cultural norms. As a result, many men don’t recognize or understand their own aggression, rationalize and defend misconduct, and let other men get away with it. Too often women are shamed into accepting or excusing aggressions, micro or worse. Think Melania Trump and “locker room talk”. -more-

ON MENTAL HEALTH: Harassment Of Disabled Under New State Program

Jack Bragen
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:39:00 PM

Recent California legislation, Assembly Bill 1568, has created a pilot program called "Whole Person Care," a state funded program administered by 19 counties. This project is directed at Medi-Cal recipients, and provides voluntary case management (medical case management and "social" case management). It is intended to reduce the usage of high cost services by those in the Medi-Cal population that a database has determined are "high risk" individuals. The new law provides for coordination between agencies. It provides for tracking of people in a database. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Sexual Harassment -- The Weinstein Effect

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday December 17, 2017 - 12:52:00 PM

Ever since more than eighty women accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein of engaging in sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape, giving rise to the #MeToo Movement, there seems to be daily reports of new accusations of sexual harassment against prominent men. The #MeToo Movement even made the cover of Time Magazine. -more-

Arts & Events

Christian Tetzlaff Interprets Bach’s Solo Violin Works

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday December 22, 2017 - 01:33:00 PM

On Sunday evening, December 17, Christian Tetzlaff returned to San Francisco’s Davies Hall to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Appearing under the auspices of San Francisco Symphony, Christian Tetzlaff played the last four of the six Bach works for solo violin. In Tetzlaff’s view, there is a trajectory throughout these six works that moves from darkness and suffering into light and joy. The opening Sonata and its Partita, says Tetzlaff, offer a kind of overture. Omitting these in his recital, Tetzlaff maintains that the basic trajectory can be heard as he plays the second and third sets of sonatas and partitas in numerical order. -more-

Sherezade Panthaki Stars in Obscure Handel Oratorio

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday December 24, 2017 - 10:59:00 AM

Under the leadership of Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has consistently championed the music of George Friedrich Handel, bringing us this composer’s operas, oratorios, and instrumental music in live performances and recordings. Now, in four performances throughout the Bay Area, December 14-17, they have given us Handel’s 1744 oratorio Joseph and His Brethren. A work rarely performed these days, Joseph and His Brethren was extremely popular in Handel’s day, receiving ten performances in England, where it placed fourth, behind The Messiah, Samson, and Judas Maccabeas, in number of performances given in the composer’s lifetime. -more-

Mark Morris Revives THE HARD NUT

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday December 16, 2017 - 05:30:00 PM

On Friday evening, December 15, Mark Morris Dance Group opened their perennial Christmas favorite, The Hard Nut, for an extensive run through December 24 at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. It’s been more than twenty-five years since Mark Morris premiered The Hard Nut, which of course is his quirky take on Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet The Nutcracker. Based on the story The Nutcracker and the Mouseking by E.T.A. Hoffman, this charming tale involves the Christmas Eve dreams of a young girl, often named Clara, although in Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut she is called Marie. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, December 17-24

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday December 17, 2017 - 11:44:00 AM

December 19 is the last Berkeley City Council meeting before the winter recess. Jammed into the 498 page Agenda Packet is the City Manager’s report on the referral process item 36. This is the list of the work assigned by the City Council to the City Manager. While quite a number of referrals are in process or completed, there are referrals from 2014 that are still lingering unfinished. Also in the packet is the Police Review Commission’s (PRC) recommendation to repeal the September 12, 2017 pepper spray ordinance item 40 a. The City Manager rejects the PRC recommendation in 40 b. recommending the ordinance remain in place. Justification for retaining the policy includes the statement, “On August 27, hundreds [emphasis added] of masked extremists arrived on the scene of an otherwise peaceful event in Civic Center Park, accompanied by a flatbed truck loaded with weapons and shields…” -more-