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UC Berkeley Student Arrested on Suspicion of Assault, Hate Crime

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday February 19, 2014 - 09:22:00 PM

A University of California at Berkeley student has been arrested on suspicion of robbery and aggravated assault and hate crimes for allegedly making homophobic statements to another student, taking the other student's cellphone and then beating him late Tuesday night. 

UC Berkeley police said the 19-year-old male victim and the suspect, Joseph Donner, also 19, are acquaintances and were walking to the Moffit Library on campus shortly before midnight on Tuesday when Donner made homophobic statements to the victim and demanded his cellphone. 

Police said that when the victim and Donner reached Campbell Hall, Donner ordered the victim to go into the construction area and when the victim refused Donner began beating him. 

According to police, Donner repeatedly punched, kicked and choked the victim and then fled the area by running southbound from Campbell Hall. 

University police said they then went to Donner's residence and arrested him.

UC Berkeley Student Robbed by Armed Man Near Campus

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Friday February 14, 2014 - 11:19:00 AM

A 25-year-old University of California at Berkeley student was robbed while walking south of campus early this morning, according to UC police. 

The woman was walking around 12:40 a.m. near Dana and Carleton streets when she was approached from behind by the suspect, police said. 

The man showed a gun and demanded her belongings and grabbed her purse, which was around her wrist, police said. 

The woman's wrist was slightly injured in the incident. 

The suspect ran away on foot and got into a dark gray four-door car and drove off. 

Police searched the area, but he was not found.

Tim's Vermeer: A Tricky, Magical Film from Penn and Teller
Opens February 14 at the SF Embarcadero and February 21 at the Elmwood in Berkeley

Preview by Gar Smith
Saturday February 15, 2014 - 11:46:00 AM

The new film from Penn and Teller (the multitasking Odd Couple behind the X-rated comic-doc, "The Aristocrats") is an irresistibly entertaining film about a self-effacing Texas inventor and his obsession with the 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.

There is a mystery that drives this film. But, in this case, it's not a question of "Whodunnit?" It's more a matter of "Howdunnit?"

There was always something special about Vemeer's masterpieces —a certain heightened clarity and illumination that give canvases like "Girl with a Pearl Earring" an eerie, almost photographic presence.

More than eight years ago, a Texas tinkerer named Tim Jenison became hooked on the idea that there was a special trick at work behind Vermeer's paintings. Jenison became fixated on trying to prove his suspicions. Bolstered by his experience as a pioneering designer of desktop video and CGI imagery, Jenison believed he knew Vermeer's secret: It was all done with mirrors—some 150 years before the invention of photography, Vermeer had found a way to capture living images by projecting them on canvas.

This theory clearly appealed to a pair of professional magicians like Penn and Teller. 

Although only 35 of Vermeer's work are known to exist, the collection was sufficient to provide Jenison with his first clues. On close inspection, it is revealed that many of the paintings were staged within the confines of a single room—Vermeer's studio apartment in Delft. And there was something about the light. The human retina does not perceive light in the way that Vermeer painted it. It was, instead, the way light is captured through the lens of a camera. 

That was the key. Vermeer, Jenison reasoned, had relied on a room-sized camera obscura—essentially a large, walk-in "pin-hole" camera that projects an image from the outside world upside down on the back wall of a darkened box. 

Teller's direction quickly establishes Jenison's quirky but easy-going, can-do nature. Jenison is shown skating around a parking lot with a large office fan strapped on his back to increase his speed. He's shown walking from his car and taking off for a hop in a small personal helicopter. He's shown tinkering with electronics and mirrors. He's shown meticulously recreating a 17th century table leg on a lathe. 

Jenison is a clever fellow but, as he admits upfront: "I am not a painter." Nonetheless, he assigns himself an unlikely task: "To paint a Vermeer" using the tools he believed the Dutch master might have employed. 

An inventor who is as good with his hands as he is with his brain, Jenison used a furnace to manufacture the glass that he ground by hand to fashion the lens of his own camera obscura—once again, using only the materials and technology available in the 17th century. 

Jenison visited Vermeer's dwelling in the town of Delft to study the light. Back home in Texas, he created a palette of pigments — made by hand using nothing but the minerals and oils that would have been available to Vermeer. 

The painting Jenison choses to replicate is Vermeer's "The Music Lesson." And, in order to fairly test his hypothesis, Jenison is compelled to recreate Vermeer's studio in a section of his vast Texas warehouse. He builds his replica studio in a spot where the windows face the sun at the same angle. The recreation of Vermeer's studio is a painstaking process involving fashioning wood into period furniture, recreating the iron-and-glass windows, searching for similar samples of cloth and clothing, commissioning the creation of matching ceramics, hiring costumed models to stand in position for hours at a time. 

In the course of the film, Jenison will discover how it is possible to achieve the camera obscura effect in normal light. He also encounters problems that threaten to torpedo his quest. Each time, his remarkably nimble mind comes up with flashes of insight that send him down new avenues of exploration, using new tools that Vermeer may —or may not—have used to "paint photographs." 

Jenison's quest was buoyed by the research (and controversial speculation) of Philip Steadman, the author of Vermeer's Camera and the British artist David Hockney who is initially intrigued by Jenison's discoveries and finds himself finally, and delightedly, convinced. Both Steadman and Hockey are featured in the film. 

Finally, with the stage set, the sleight-of-hand needs to be replaced by might-of-hand. 

Since Jenison is "not a painter," the work goes slowly. He must paint his canvas slowly, looking at a portion of the composition captured in the reflection of a small round mirror. The work proceeds as an application of millions of small strokes, matching color and design at a micro-level. 

The work takes months. At one point, Jenison has to replicate the elaborate design in a rug that lies draped over some furniture. The photographic detail evident in Vemeer's work forces Jenison to spend three excruciating days, painting each knot and tie in the surface of the rug. 

The camerawork is a wonder to behold. Did Teller spend the entire 130 days it took to paint the facsimile patiently filming over Jenison's shoulder? It's a marvel to watch Jenison's tiny brush doggedly at work. (Thanks to the editing, Jenison's brush is always daubed in just the right shade of paint—we don't see the times where the hue was off and a remix/retouch was needed). 

Even more marvelous are the time-lapse shots that record the progress as Tim's Vermeer slowly emerges across the canvas, gaining color and detail. At one point, the process is even depicted in motion—the camera panning slowly over the canvas as the incredibly detailed art unfurls like rich custard being poured over a white plate. 

With the viewer's mind primed to look for answers to mysteries, there is one nettlesome detail. Early in the painting process, we can see that the walls and furnishings of Vemeer's room all fully painted. The forms of the student and teacher are missing and still to be added. 

While this is the way an ordinary painter would likely proceed, it is inconsistent with Jenison's theory and his mechanical approach to recreating the masterpiece – by building it outward, millimeter by millimeter. 

Why paint parts of walls and furnishings that were not visible in the original painting? 

This is another mystery embedded in the film. 

Charles Fillmore Dies at 84
He Figured Out How Framing Works

By George Lakoff, Reader Supported News
Tuesday February 18, 2014 - 04:37:00 PM

Charles J. Fillmore, one of the world's greatest linguists -- ever -- died last Thursday, February 13, at the age of 84 in San Francisco. He was the discoverer of frame semantics, who did the essential research on the nature of framing in thought and language. He discovered that we think, largely unconsciously, in terms of conceptual frames -- mental structures that organize our thought. Further, he found that every word is mentally defined in terms of frame structures. Our current understanding of "framing" in social and political discourse derives ultimately from his research, whose importance stretches well beyond linguistics to social and political thought -- and all of intellectual life. The world has lost a scholar of the greatest significance. 

"Chuck," as he was known throughout the linguistics world, got his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1961 and taught at Ohio State University until 1971, when he came to the University of California at Berkeley. Chuck's wife of 40 years, Lily Wong Fillmore, put herself through college and then through graduate school at Stanford, winding up as Professor of Education at Berkeley. She was his constant companion, sounding board, alter ego, the greatest cheer in his life, and much more. 

Chuck taught at Berkeley for 23 years until his retirement in 1994. As a Professor Emeritus, he ran a research project on Frame Semantics called FrameNet at the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley for 18 years until 2012, when he became ill. 

If you are interested in how our understanding of framing in public discourse developed, you need to know about Chuck. 

Chuck's insights have had a profound effect on the fields of both linguistics and cognitive science. As one of the earliest exponents of Noam Chomsky's transformational grammar, Chuck discovered what is known as the "transformational cycle" in 1963, even before Chomsky came up with the idea of "deep structure." My own relationship with Chuck began in that year, when he came to speak on that topic at the Indiana University Graduate Linguistics Club. Ever gracious, he accepted my invitation as an officer of the club and drove all the way from Columbus, Ohio to speak to our graduate students for nothing more than an Indiana potluck dinner. I have revered him ever since, and our lives and work have been intertwined over more than 50 years. 

By 1965, we both became convinced of the massive role of semantics in grammar, but we came up with very different theories. My tack was to introduce formal logic as semantics into linguistics in late 1963. But Chuck, with greater insight, noticed that grammar is organized in terms of the most basic experiences of everyday life, for example, action and perception. He observed that such experiences have a basic structure -- wholes with parts: Thus an action can have Agents, their Acts, Patients (what they act on), Purposes, Instruments, Locations, Times, and so on. Perception involves an Experiencer, and experience, a Stimulus of the Experience, and so on. He called these conceptual elements of experience "cases" on an analogy with case languages like Latin and Greek. He called his theory "Case Grammar," showing that there are rules of grammar that crucially make use of such very general conceptual elements that structure our experience. I heard him speak on the idea at MIT in the summer of 1965, and began following his development of the theory. He published the idea in 1968, and the idea spread. A version of that idea is now taken for granted pretty much throughout the linguistic world, partly though Chuck's work and partly through a 1965 MIT dissertation by Jeff Gruber, who left linguistics shortly thereafter to become a Baha'i missionary. In the cognitive tradition following Chuck, they are called "semantic roles." In the generative tradition, they are called "theta-roles." The insights are similar and were discovered independently at about the same time. 

Chuck arrived at Berkeley in 1971, and I followed in 1972. We began working together, as well as taking part in a cognition discussion group that included Dan Slobin, Eleanor Rosch, Wally Chafe, Paul Kay, Steve Palmer, John Gumperz, and occasionally, Paul Grice. That became the core of cognitive science at Berkeley. When the field was formed later in the 1970's, Berkeley became the West Coast center of the field. In 1974-75, while Chuck was developing frame semantics and I was helping, we were regularly visited in my living room by three friends who drove over from Palo Alto -- Terry Winograd, Danny Bobrow, and Don Norman. They wanted to find out what they could about the details of frame semantics since they were working on a knowledge representation language for computer science, which eventually developed into KL-ONE -- a classic frame-based knowledge representation language in computer science. It was because of Chuck that it came to be "frame-based." 

In 1975, Chuck published his first paper on frame semantics in the first issue of the Publications of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, and in 1976 published a second version in 1976 in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Frame semantics was a much-elaborated version of case grammar. Chuck had been studying European linguistic research on "semantic fields" -- groups of related words like knife-fork-spoon, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, ... and so on. Chuck realized that they were also based on organized mental structures of common experiences, but he went a major step further: the hypothesis that every word in every language is mentally defined by elements of such mental structures, which he called "frames." Chuck's classic example involved the semantic field buy-sell-goods-price-cost. The common mental structure defining such words is based on the commercial event scenario: Person 1 has possessions and wants to exchange them for money. Person 2 has the money and wants to exchange it for such a possession. There is mutual exchange. Person 1 is called a seller; Person 2 is called a buyer; the possession exchanged is called the goods; and the money is called the price. Those named the basic "semantic roles" -- the conceptual elements of the frame. 

Being Chuck, he went further. Sentences that looked very different have meanings characterized by the same frame. Chuck sold the book to Paul for $10. Paul bought the book from Chuck for $10. The book cost Paul $10. Chuck got $10 for the book. Moreover, each verb defined by that frame has its own grammar associated with it. With sell, the Seller is Subject, the goods is direct object, the buyer is marked by to and the price is marker by for. With cost, the goods is subject, the price is direct object and the Buyer is indirect object. 

This is a very simple example. There is a great deal more to frames. In the 18 years Chuck worked on the FrameNet project, over a thousand frames were described in detail. They are publicly accessible on the web at www.framenet.icsi.berkeley.edu

The study of frame semantics became the study of (1) which frames do we use in conceptualizing our experience, (2) what semantic roles and scenarios define each frame, (3) what words are defined by which frames, (4) what is the grammar associated with the frame elements, and (5) how are frames related to one another. 

I was hooked on frame semantics by 1975, and started working with Chuck on a linguistic theory that would incorporate frames. We called it Construction Grammar. The idea was to provide a unified theory of grammar and word meaning. 

After working together on it for several years, we wound up creating two different versions of Construction Grammar for very different purposes. Chuck had always thought of himself as an Ordinary Working Linguist (an OWL, as he referred to himself). His goal was to provide a useful tool for describing languages. As computer science developed, he moved FrameNet in the direction of computer-directed frame analysis in various languages, using large collections of linguistic data (called "corpora"). As a computational tool for research and teaching, FrameNet stands as a monument to Chuck's genius and fortitude, and to the loyalty and hard work of his students, especially Collin Baker, Miriam Petruck, and Michael Ellsworth. 

I went in two other directions, both inspired by insights of Chuck's. In 1978, Michel Reddy and I, independently, found evidence that metaphor was not just in language, but in thought. We think to a remarkable extent in metaphor, and that metaphorical concepts, like frames, are largely unconscious. Having worked with Chuck, I realized that conceptual metaphors were frame-to-frame mappings, ways of understanding one area of framed experience in terms of another. A year later, Mark Johnson and I came to the conclusion that frames, metaphors, and all other aspects of thought are based on what we called "embodiment," postulating a theory of embodied cognition. Having followed Chuck's instincts on the role of everyday embodied experience in both case grammar and frame semantics, this seemed natural to me. Embodied cognition has become a major research area in the cognitive sciences. 

Chuck, working with his close friend Paul Kay, came up with a version of Construction Grammar fitting FrameNet goals and methods. I came up with an embodied version of Construction Grammar that took into account conceptual metaphor, embodied aspects of frames and metaphors, and the idea of conceptual prototypes. We published elaborate initial papers on our versions of construction grammar at virtually the same time. Mine came out in 1987 as a 100+ page case study in my book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. Chuck, working with Paul Kay and Mary Catherine O'Connor, published a lengthy, beautiful, and overwhelmingly convincing study of the Let Alone construction (as in He can't afford a Chevy, let alone a BMW.) It appeared in Language in 1988 as "Regularity and Idiomaticity in Grammatical Constructions: The Case of Let Alone." 

Chuck also inspired the research I have done over many years in applying frame semantics to politics. In 1977, Chuck told me about a court case in Boston in which a doctor who had performed an abortion was put on trial for murder. In the trial, the defense attorney used the word fetus and the prosecuting attorney used the word baby. Fetus invoked the frame of a medical procedure, while baby invoked a killing frame. The medical frame won out in the trial. But the point was not lost on me: competing frames are used everywhere in political and social issues and who wins depends on which frame dominates. To understand exactly how conceptual framing works through language, the appropriate field of study is frame semantics. 

Charles J. Fillmore was the man who first figured out how framing works. He is world-renowned in linguistics, but deserves a much wider appreciation as a major intellectual. I have cited his work over and over, in my writing and in my talks. But over more than 50 years, he worked modestly as an OWL, an ordinary working linguist. He was brought up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was known for his Minnesotan modesty, gentlemanliness, and a sly wit befitting Lake Woebegone. When he first came to Berkeley in 1971, he encountered a culture defined by the then-commonplace expression, "Let it all hang out." His response was to wear a button saying, "Tuck it all back in." 

I will always miss him. 

This first appeared at readersupportednews.com.



What's Left Behind Us on the Beach

By Becky O'Malley
Saturday February 15, 2014 - 10:51:00 AM

In the last couple of weeks a verse that my sixth grade teacher induced me to memorize has once again popped into my brain. I’ve written about this before, when Molly Ivins died, but for those of you who didn’t go to the kind of school that featured memorizing nineteenth century poetry, here it is once more: 

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
What prompted these ruminations were several losses in the past couple of weeks. The one that has been widely commented on in the press that I read was the death, in robust old age, of Pete Seeger. He stood up for anything that needed standing up for in his eight or nine decades of public life, refusing to let hostile winds in the fifties and sixties blow him down. His life has been widely and admiringly remembered, even in quarters where he was once denounced, giving us all hope that if we live long enough we might become respectable or even appreciated. 

Last Sunday I was fortunate to attend a memorial gathering for Jerome Carlin, someone I’d gotten acquainted with in the past few years as a charming person to chat with at cultural events, a painter of note whose exhibits I’d enjoyed, actor-director Joy Carlin’s spouse and cellist Nick Carlin’s father. What I didn’t know is that Jerry had several previous lives, each distinguished in its own way. Trained as a lawyer, he ran San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance, a model of its kind which provided storefront aid to low income clients in the late 60s. He was also chair of Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts, another model institution which has been much imitated (and where I worked when I was in law school and after, though at a low level where I didn’t meet him). The memorial featured talks by people who’d worked with him in each incarnation, and had been inspired by him to go on to great achievement in their chosen fields. 

Jerry was not only politically correct and politically active, he was also politically effective, which is rarer. He was one of those people to whom the often abused term Renaissance Man actually applies. 

And also, he told great jokes. As well as awful jokes. He couldn’t resist a bad pun. All of which I, and his many other fans, enjoyed about him. 

Saving the world is important, but jokes are important too, especially corny ones. That’s why I was sorry to hear of the death of Sid Caesar, whose corny but great skits on Your Show of Shows brightened a few years of my childhood, in the days when TVs were tiny and the whole family watched together on Saturday nights. ( I especially liked the ones that featured his partner in comedy Imogene Coca, a small dark-haired women with neurotic affect, because she reminded me a lot of my mother. ) 

What footprints did these men leave on the sands of time? I’ve always imagined the sands of time as being on the wet part of the beach, the place that sooner or later will be washed smooth by the incoming tide. All the good that resulted from the presence on this earth of Pete Seeger, Jerry Carlin and Sid Caesar will last a long time, but eventually their contributions are bound to fade. Longfellow himself has faded from view like footprints on the beach, as his metronomic metres and earnest exhortations have passed out of style. 

The earth endures, but living beings pass away. The other loss of life I experienced recently was the demise of a large oak tree in my yard, one of several that had self-planted since we moved in 40 years ago and began neglecting the lawn. The oak tree fell in the rain last weekend, taking with it a persimmon tree and various other smaller shrubs, leaving a giant hole in the green screen between our house and the neighbors. 

I’m grateful that I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the full life cycle of a giant. Other oaks have sprouted in the yard and might eventually take its place, but not in my lifetime. 

My thoughts have turned from what humans can do to leave their mark on the earth when they’re gone to what they can do with the time they spend here. I remembered another poem we’d read in the sixth grade which I didn’t understand at the time, one by a contemporary of Longfellow’s (and my collateral kinsman) Ralph Waldo Emerson: 

Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,
And marching single in an endless file,
Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
To each they offer gifts after his will,
Bread, kingdoms, stars, or sky that holds them all.
I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,
Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.
As it happens, I recently inherited a few small watercolors produced by various women in the early 19th century who had “Emerson” somewhere in their names. They used the gifts which each day brought them for the delight of studying flowers, butterflies, landscapes and other simple subjects from the natural world and painting them. 

My family is happy to have the product of this activity, modest works of art which have been passed down through a couple of centuries, but the real value they represent is what the painters experienced while they were being created. Leaving footprints on the sands of time is all very well, but accepting the gifts which each day brings is important too. 

Another loss to Berkeley last week was David Simmons, who slept on the street and has passed by without leaving any discernible footprints behind him here. We can hope, perhaps, that among the days in his allotted span were at least a few on which he enjoyed their gifts.  






Odd Bodkins: Roy (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday February 15, 2014 - 11:36:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Why the UAW Lost In Tennessee

By Harry Brill
Monday February 17, 2014 - 04:58:00 PM

We just learned about the defeat of the UAW in Tennessee by a vote of 712 to 626. What really happened? The politicians and corporate leaders in the vicinity engaged in a vigorous campaign to defeat unionization. But UAW failed to be as vigorous as their opponents were. Although Volkswagen remained neutral, it imposed a serious constraint on the Union. It insisted that as a condition for being neutral, the Union should refrain from visiting workers at their home. UAW should have never accepted this condition. As experienced organizers know, visiting workers in a relaxed environment on a one on one basis is a powerful tool for winning support. Second, UAW decided against reaching out to the community. What a disastrous mistake! Unfortunately, a social movement approach is foreign to the current union leadership.  

Would the UAW have won the election if it had taken these steps? One never knows for sure. But the chances would have been excellent. All it had to do was convince 44 employees to change their vote. Please do the arithmetic. If we add 44 votes to the 626 it received, the pro-union tally would have been 670 votes. Subtracting 44 from the 712 who opposed unionization would have reduced that vote to 668 votes. The Union would have squeezed through to victory. Indeed, it might have gotten a lot more votes than the minimal needed.  

This defeat reminds us of a very important lesson. When the barriers are enormous, as they often are in labor and other struggles, progressives must take advantage of the political tools available to them or else!

Valentina's Dream

By Elena (Petrova) Gold
Saturday February 15, 2014 - 11:54:00 AM

On the chilly morning of St. Valentine’s Day, when their western sisters dig their pretty noses into outrageously expensive bouquets of red roses, dutifully delivered to their city offices by stressed couriers, most Russian women will be lucky to get a card and a chocolate rose from a supermarket.

Valentine’s Day in Russia is a reason to party and celebrate (read: drink and dance till early hours of the morning) but flowers will have to wait until March 8, International Women’s Day, an official public holiday in Russia when men try to be gentlemen and let women relax from home chores.

Probably, the only Russian ladies enjoying courier-delivered roses will be members of online dating services and the flowers will be sent by their overseas boyfriends. I am using the term “boyfriends” loosely here, as most online romances only flourish in cyberspace, with splashes of courier-delivered roses and chocolates being the only real things women might get.

Russia, fresh from Perestroika, opened its borders in the early ’90’s. It meant Russians no longer needed exit visas from the government to leave the country. Straight away, a whole universe of dating services started to offer introductions to beautiful Russian women who wanted to marry western men.

To an outsider, this might have looked like a way for women from a poor country to find a better life, but in truth what these women really wanted was to find a husband and start a family. Surprisingly enough, given Russia’s history of equal rights for men and women since the Revolution of 1917, Russian family paradigms remained rigidly centered around a man’s role as provider, and a woman’s role as wife and mother, so much so that successful career women feel inadequate if they do not have a husband and kids, and no amount of career success can make them feel good about themselves. 

Fast-forward twenty years. Russia lost its “superpower” status but managed to shrug its dread of Perestroika and rebuild itself into an open and modern society. Moscow consistently tops the lists for the number of billionaires and cost of living, and Russian President Vladimir Putin scored the #1 spot on the 2013 list of Forbes’ Most Powerful People. We may laugh at the travails of the Olympic Torch but no one argues that the facilities in Sochi are world-class. 

But what about family values? They are still the same as they were 20 years ago. Russian women are still desperate for marriage and kids. The infamous Russian laws against “gay propaganda” are coming from the same center: trying to maintain the traditional nuclear family and reverse the demographic crisis: there are 92 males to every 100 females between the ages of 15 and 64, and 46 for every 100 women 65 years and over. 

Russian men are well aware of these demographics. A Russian woman in her early 30’s told me about her first date with a young Russian man: when she refused his request for late-night drinks at her place, he blatantly scolded her: “You shouldn’t be that stiff; there are not enough men in Russia.” 

The desperation of Russian women in their pursuit of family is what Tina Fey lambasted in the 2008 movie Baby Mama, the only difference being that Russian women want to have both a husband and a child─and one without the other isn’t considered an option. 

Thus, online dating services offering Russian women introductions to western men never run out of pretty female candidates, most of whom are educated professionals with degrees: those women have an even harder time finding a partner in Russia, as they dream to meet someone who is on their level, or preferably higher. 

The problem these women face is that most men they meet are virtual dreamers using dating sites as a cost-effective substitute for porn or phone sex. Most men on dating sites are happy to exchange emails and photos and maybe chat on Skype, but moving a relationship to the real world is something only 1% of them will ever do. The rare happy couples are exceptions to the rule, and, if you asked the women, they probably were diligently dating online for years before meeting a man brave enough to buy a plane ticket to meet her. 

So, here she is, the beautiful Russian Valentina: looking into the monitor and dreaming about a man, who will become her everything: a husband, a partner, a lover, a protector and the father of her kids... 

Let’s hope she’ll get some flowers on St. Valentine’s Day. At least, it’s something real. 


Elena (Petrova) Gold is the founder of ElenasModels.com. 





Light the Bike

By Harry Brill
Saturday February 15, 2014 - 11:56:00 AM

Too many bicycles and autos collide, often resulting in serious injury and even death for the cyclist. Although all bikers are at risk, according to the California Highway Patrol teenage cyclists were involved in more traffic collisions than any other age group. It is urgent that our elected officials, both at the state and local levels, take notice and do something about it, particularly addressing the high risk of night cycling. 

Just blaming those on the road for poor judgment serves as an excuse to ignore the problem. Most streets, including many thoroughfares, lack adequate lighting. So visibility is very poor in the bay area. But blaming the public is a lot cheaper than providing funds to improve visibility. 

However, providing adequate lighting is not going to happen soon or perhaps ever. Nevertheless, at no cost to public budgets, our elected public officials can accomplish a great deal by legally requiring cyclists to light up their bikes. A headlight should be attached to the bike or mounted on the bicycle helmet. The bicycle should also include a flashing light in the rear. A cyclist should also be required to carry a rechargeable battery pack. Like automobiles, adequate lighting on bikes should be made mandatory. 

Remember, we are talking about saving lives and protecting the physical well being of those who take to the road with their non-polluting vehicles. Also, these accidents are traumatic to drivers as well. Please urge state legislators and elected officials in our cities to take action right away.

Ukraine and the F-Bomb

By Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday February 15, 2014 - 11:58:00 AM

All the brouhaha over Russia’s alleged leak of a tapped phone conversation between America’s top diplomat and a US State Department official has more than a touch of irony. While our National Security Agency have their electronic spooks in every corner of the world taping emails, phone conversations which has outraged many of our more ‘cherished’ allies, we feign outrage that the naughty Russians may have been listening to our diplomatic communiques.  

The leak caused a new low in the escalating diplomatic relationship between Moscow and Washington. Lately, Russia has been offering loan incentives and cheap gas to Ukraine to discourage it from moving into the tight embrace of the European Union. The loss of Ukraine would be a mortal blow to Russia who have been anxious to resurrect the ‘glorious days’ of the former USSR. The leaked recording posted on You-Tube captured a conversation between US Assistant of State, Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. Towards the end of the conversation Pyatt suggested enlisting the help of the UN and the EU in a mediation role in the creation of a new Ukrainian coalition government. It was then that an exasperated Nuland launched her F-bomb and said “f- the EU.” Needless, to say the less than diplomatic exchange generated outrage. In the interest of fairness and reciprocity, it would be wise to remember, “Don’t do onto others what you would not wish to be done to you.”


THE PUBLIC EYE: Growing Up Liberal

By Bob Burnett
Friday February 14, 2014 - 08:27:00 AM

I’m a middle-aged, affluent, prototypical WASP. I was born in Los Angeles and raised in Orange County where my father and grandfather were small businessmen and Republicans. Knowing all this you’d expect me to be a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. But I’m not. I’m unabashedly liberal. 

I thought about my path to liberalism when I read the recent interview between President Obama and Bill O’Reilly. After a discussion of Obama’s so called liberal agenda, O’Reilly said, “I think that you are much more friendly to a nanny state than I am. I’m more of a self-reliance guy, you’re more of a big government will solve your problems guy.” O’Reilly mouthed the classic conservative trope: liberals love the “nanny state” and think big government can solve all of America’s problems. Not surprisingly, O’Reilly doesn’t understand liberal values. 

I’m “a self reliance guy.” After my father’s business failed, I worked my way through Stanford. Then I made my way up the Silicon Valley food chain and eventually became one of the founding executives at Cisco Systems. But, I’m not a conservative because, as I grew up, I acquired three core liberal values. 

“War is not the answer.” Three of my uncles served in WWII and I was raised in a patriotic household. My grandfather was Dwight Eisenhower’s cousin and once Ike became President, my elders believed the US could do no wrong. Eventually, my attitude began to shift when America got entangled in Vietnam. 

My brother was drafted into the Army, but I got a deferment because, as a computer scientist, I was doing something the Defense Department thought was essential to the war effort – my software group modified our operating system so that it was “spook friendly.” Then I studied the origins and politics of the Vietnam conflict, which led me to join the anti-war movement. 

Involvement in the anti-war movement made me aware of government lies and misconduct. As a result, I’m suspicious of the Department of Defense, CIA, and FBI. O’Reilly deplores the “nanny state” while I reject the conservative veneration of the military-industrial complex. Conservatives blind obedience to the national security establishment led to the tragedy of 9/11 and the asinine invasion of Iraq. 

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". I grew up in a Presbyterian household that practiced Christianity light. We didn’t pray or read the Bible, but we did have an informal code of ethics. Foremost among these was the Golden Rule. My grandfather mouthed this code, but he was a full-spectrum bigot, who didn’t like blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Italians, or most anyone who hadn’t immigrated from England or Germany. (Where our ancestors came from.) 

My father was far more tolerant and preached a message of fairness; “If you treat other people right, they will usually treat you right.” This applied to the people around us but not particularly to blacks or Hispanics – because we didn’t know any. 

This changed when I was in high school and went to a Presbyterian youth camp, where I met black students who were involved in the civil-rights movement. They spoke about the impact of segregation on their lives and their harassment by the police. (A few years later, 1967, I saw police beat anti-war protestors at LA’s Century Plaza Hotel.) 

At his memorable 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention, Barack Obama said, “It is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work.” I agree, which is why I support the social safety net. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren said “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own.” I agree. 

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from out children.” When I was a Silicon Valley executive, I learned there were four criteria for success: get your work done, treat your employees fairly, handle customers with respect, and develop a strategic vision. Whereas many CEOs plan only as far as the next corporate earnings report, a technology manager has to plan for the future. “You make big money by anticipating the market, not reacting to it.” 

One of America’s key problems is that it doesn’t have a unifying strategic, democratic vision. Since the Reagan era the plan has been, “Help the rich get richer and our problems will disappear.” That’s not working and it’s destroying our democracy and the planet. 

I had a plan for my own life and for my family. But I was blind to consequences of global climate change. Then, in 1987, when I was on vacation with my children, I heard their fears about destruction of the environment. “The world we grow up in is much less healthy than your world. We’re afraid to have children.” 

America’s biggest problem is global climate change caused by our mindless addiction to fossil fuels. 

I’m a liberal. I believe in self-reliance but I also believe in common sense. We have to curtail the US military establishment. We have to take immediate action to save the planet. And we have to work together to protect the human rights of all Americans. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Blind Faith and Clinging to Hope

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday February 12, 2014 - 08:03:00 PM

I once heard a psychiatrist assert that consciousness is probably an illusion. He was an extreme example of being polarized toward the medical model of mental illness.

There are some psychiatrists and others who worship science and believe it is the whole answer to life. They don't realize that their dogmatic clinging to the belief that today's science must account for everything (or else it doesn't exist) is a religion too. It is arrogant to believe that human knowledge is anything but in its infancy.

The reader shouldn't construe that I am siding with creationists, who I believe to be deluded members of a Christian cult. I am simply saying that physical science isn't nearly advanced enough yet to justify the level of faith in it that some people have. A good scientist ought to agree with this.  

Then you run into the New Age spiritual healers. Some of them do this as a business. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing in advance that the healer knows what he or she is doing, understands your particular set of needs, and won't worsen your problems or create new problems in the process of what they are doing.  

When I tried some new age healers and groups when in my twenties, I finally realized that I might have been letting go of some bad material, but my defenses were stripped, leaving me wide open to entirely new problems--I lacked the defenses necessary to deal with a sometimes challenging environment.  

The good that I received from studying meditative works by popular New Age authors in the 1980's was that it taught me the folly of force, and it got me started with using cognitive techniques to help relieve pain. These are two important lessons that I am still learning.  

Hope of something better, for someone with mental illness, should not be underestimated. Thus, when I was much younger and even today, the possibility that the future holds something better has been enough to keep me going. The idea that I could practice meditation to make my life better allowed me to persevere during my young adulthood--which was an extremely difficult period in my life.  

Organized spirituality, for many persons with mental illness, can be a refuge and a source of hope. These two things are sorely needed if you have these illnesses, which create misery from the inside out. 

For someone with mental illness who would like to feel better, I would recommend a class in cognitive therapy. It could be a class offered by a reputable source, perhaps one affiliated with Adult Education, or with a hospital.  

Spiritual practices do not conflict with accepting treatment for a mental illness.  

Groups like Scientology and the like are to be avoided. The mind's power can be harmed when misdirected by an external influence, including in the context of it supposedly being a healing. 

If a church, synagogue, or mosque puts wind in your sails, then you are doing a good thing. Absolute atheism and worship of "modern" science (which seems to dispute the existence of a soul) does not offer much hope for a person with mental illness, since it labels persons with mental illness as little more than biologically defective machines.

Arts & Events

Behind the Swings: Produced by The Berkeley Youth Institute

Wednesday February 12, 2014 - 08:00:00 PM

Parks are where children grow up, homeless people live and communities come together. We have created a documentary film to show the role of parks in the Berkeley community and present it to the public. The documentary follows the stories of a variety of people and their experiences in parks. Behind the Swings focuses on safety, park activity, and park histories. In the end, we hope that the viewer will understand why parks are such powerful and appealing environments to so many different people. 

Behind the Swings is produced by the teens of the Berkeley Youth Institute. The Berkeley Youth Institute is a youth development, digital media arts, project centered program. Through a technology lens the Youth Institute encourages youth to cultivate imagination and curiosity, act in cooperation, and harness a passion for learning. 

For more information about the film screening, visit 


Day: Saturday, March 8th 

Time: 10:30-11:30 

Place: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood 

2966 College Avenue at Ashby Berkeley CA 94705

Around & About Comedy: Comedy for Valentine's Day—& After—Johhny Steele at East Bay Media Center

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday February 12, 2014 - 07:56:00 PM

Some laughs for Valentine's Day—or the night after? Try riotous Johnny Steele's "Good Juju—Mongrel Saves Man"at the East Bay Media Center Performance Space, 1939 Addison (between MLK & Milvia), in the Downtown Berkeley Arts District. 8 p. m. February 14-15, Friday-Saturday nights. $25. Online at johnnysteele.com or 843-3699.