The Week



Closing the Farmers' Market because of Saturday protest is a mistake

Christopher Adams
Sunday April 09, 2017 - 08:06:00 PM

Donald Trump built—or at least put his name on—a fancy golf course not too far from where I grew up in southern California. I am sure that with a little effort on social media I could gather some protesters, and we could block the golf course entrance. I am also sure that the local police would arrest us all if we didn’t disperse. We’d have the right to civil disobedience; the cops would have the right to clear us out.

Whatever we did, you can be sure is that the golf course would still collect its greens fees, and its restaurant and bar would still have customers. But here in Berkeley if Trump supporters want to hold an un-permitted rally in downtown, the City folds up. I don’t know if other downtown businesses will close, but next Saturdays’s Farmers' Market is cancelled because of an un-permitted Trump rally. -more-


Helen Rippier Wheeler
Sunday April 09, 2017 - 07:58:00 PM


Seventy-six year old Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) urged caution and a reassertion of congressional authority in response to President Trump's Thursday airstrike on Syrian regime targets. "I do not believe ... the president simply has the authority to launch missiles," he said on a Meet the Press interview.

The War, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s monumental 2007 television production, is being shown again. The War follows 40+ persons from 1941 to 1945, focusing on the citizens of four American communities. The book companion to the series is The War; An Intimate History, 1941-1945, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Burns. The words and photographs of two of the men who appear throughout -- Quentin C. Aanenson of Minnesota and Eugene Bondourant Sledge of Alabama – are particularly poignant, especially episode five –“FUBAR -- fucked up beyond all repair.”

In 1994 I chanced upon a television interview of Aanenson describing A Fighter Pilot’s Story, a VHS production he had created. I was so impressed with this compassionate man that I asked the editor of The Library Journal, for which I reviewed videos and books, to consider it for LJ Reviews. My review began, “Using personal photos, combat film, period music and correspondence, 73-year old Aanenson created this masterwork to explain his World War II combat experience to his family. The ‘story’ is of a 20-year old Army Air Corps enlistee as he learned to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt, met his future spouse, was commissioned, and flew European missions. This touching first-person narrative conveys the emotional and physical transformation wrought by the brutality of war. A young man nearly lost all hope.” -more-



Only the best for Berkeley, but how do we get there?

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:37:00 PM

A number of people that I respect showed up at the last Berkeley City Council meeting to complain about the way the new Berkeley Chief of Police was chosen. In principle, I tend to agree with them. In these troubled times, when Black Lives Matter is a fundamental urban issue, all members of the community should have input on who is chosen for this key job.

Berkeley, like many California cities, is supposed to have what’s usually called a council-manager form of government, with the added fillip of a quasi-ceremonial mayor who functions as an at-large council member and chairs the council meeting. This form became popular, especially in California, in the first part of the 20th century, as an antidote to government by directly elected officials, which was often (and often justly) disparaged as “machine politics”.

What this means, or is supposed to mean, is that the city council makes the laws and the city manager, well, manages the city. That includes hiring everyone under her, up to and including the police chief.

Berkeley’s version of the council-manager format is slightly diluted, in that some commissions, notably the Zoning Adjustment Board and the Landmark Preservation Commission, have what’s called a quasi-judicial function, permitting them to make certain land use decisions which are then appealable to to the city council.

What exactly the role of the Police Review Commission has been or should be is in flux at the moment, but PRC members have claimed with some justification that they should have at least an advisory role in the selection of the new chief. This time, it didn’t happen.

However, I’ve seen enough selection of government staff at all levels to be very wary of the practice of using consulting firms to conduct what’s called a “national search” for city and school district positions. Since I’ve lived here Berkeley has had some notably bad city managers, city attorneys, school superintendents and, yes, police chiefs, all of whom were the products of a search process. -more-

Public Comment

SQUEAKY WHEEL: DIY Affordable Housing

Toni Mester
Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:22:00 PM

The Planning Commission is holding a public hearing on the zoning of the R-1A, a slice of West Berkeley and an even smaller section of the Westbrae, at their meeting on Wednesday April 19 starting at 7 pm, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Street at MLK.

Long neglected, the R-1A has become the scene of a tug-of-war between neighbors and developers, and many appeals led the City Council to twice refer the zoning to the Planning Commission, in 2010 and 2015. The Zoning Adjustments Board even got into the act, pleading for some guidance in March 2016, noting that the zoning allows two dwelling units but “does not include standards related to the relationship [sic] between the two units, and asking that the City to “clarify whether there is an intended relationship between the two units in keeping with the purpose of the district.” -more-


Tejinder Uberoi
Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:31:00 PM

Never failing to lose an opportunity to score political points over his erudite predecessor, Trump faulted Obama for not following through on his red line ultimatum in Syria’s civil war.

Trump rightfully condemned the recent “chemical attack as reprehensible” contradicting his earlier advise in 2013 “not to attack Assad” citing it was not America’s problem.” This was followed by a barrage of tweets repeating the same advice, NOT to attack Syria” as “there is no upside and tremendous downside” and telling him to “stay out of Syria.” In a further statement which should have raised multiple red flags, Trump endorsed Russia’s support for the demonic Assad. -more-

Letter to the editor

Carol Denney
Sunday April 09, 2017 - 09:13:00 PM

I read your opinion piece about national searches, and was shocked to read your praise of Dash Butler. -more-

Tiny Homes Are A Homeowner's and Developers' Scam

Carol Denney
Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:29:00 PM

Street Spirit's last issue promoted tiny homes. Once proud to be a voice for the poor, Street Spirit has under Youth Spirit Artwork's direction become an advertisement for the most expensive, least environmentally sound approach to housing on earth. -more-


Trump, you cannot fool all the people all the time

Ralph E. Stone
Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:25:00 PM

Trump lies for the pure pleasure of it; he just can't help himself. Often his lies are difficult to fight, destructive in their effects, and almost impossible to correct if they resonate strongly enough with his true believers, which Trump’s mostly do. -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Turkey’s Dangerous Referendum

Conn Hallinan
Saturday April 01, 2017 - 06:34:00 PM

At first glance, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s drive to create an executive presidency with almost unlimited power through a nationwide referendum looks like a slam-dunk.

The man has not lost an election since 1994, and he has loaded the dice and stacked the deck for the April 15 vote. Using last summer’s failed coup as a shield, he has declared a state of emergency, fired 130,000 government employees, jailed 45,000 people—including opposition members of parliament—and closed down 176 media outlets. The opposition Republican People’s Party says it has been harassed by death threats from referendum supporters and arrests by the police. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: What we are up against

Jack Bragen
Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:15:00 PM

Forget for a moment about the debate of forcing treatment on persons with mental illness who are uncooperative—whether we are talking Laura's Law, or the laws that existed beforehand that allowed for involuntary treatment of people—who are a threat to others or to themselves, or who are gravely disabled. Forget for a moment about how to get mentally ill homeless off the street. Forget, for just a moment, about the fact that jails have become the primary mental health facility. We can come back to this later. -more-

Arts & Events

Theater Review: 'TO THE BONE' Staged by Ubuntu Theater Project at Brooklyn Preserve with Playwright in Cast

Ken Bullock
Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:21:00 PM

"Go back, go back, go back ... " Like a cult devotee with her mantra, Sarita Ocón as Juana, wrapped in a plastic bag like a prayer shawl, paces the enclosure on the upper floor of the Brooklyn Preserve--once the Brooklyn Presbyterian Church, dating from 1887; Brooklyn the old name of this borough of Oakland, just below Lake Merritt--that serves as stage for Ubuntu Theater Project's West Coast premiere of Lisa Ramirez's timely play, 'TO THE BONE.' Juana's grieving for her daughter, who was following her mother up from Central America through Mexico to work undocumented in the States, but disappeared along the way, her cell phone going dead.
Giulio Perrone's set, lit by Stephanie Johnson, makes the domed upper room with windows above a kind of shrine with a picture of a saint or the Virgen into a coop or pen or holding cell for the Latino women who live and work together--but it also makes a theatrical illusion that oscillates this space back and forth, in and out to the movement and emotion of the play--the women seem at times to be looking or reaching out to us, as they are when the audience comes in with Juana pacing and moaning, or retreating away from the wire that screens off this kind of purdah for them.
This's cogent to the theme of the play, a domestic drama becoming a kind of morality or melodrama, and to the slight stylization director (and Ubuntu artistic director) Michael Moran works into the mix, to emphasize the collective and depersonalizing nature of the women's work in the Fresh Cut Chickens factory, suiting up rhythmically in green aprons, hairnets, yellow rubber gloves, doing a mechanical dance as they step forward, brandishing their knives as the hardhatted foreman (Lalo--Francisco Arcila) harshly urges them on--faster, faster ... It's an abstraction of form and movement to emphasize the social condition these ladies have fallen into, working to send money home to their families, not a conceptual aestheticism ... The great Soviet director Meyerhold's dictum takes on its true, appropriate edge: "The Grotesque is the triumph of Form over Content." The exploited women workers have become grotesques.
None more so than Olga, played with sarcastic intensity by playwright Lisa Ramirez, a traumatophile who, once brutalized both domestically and on the job, has become a hothead--too much so, risking the work and immigration status of the others around her with her provocations and angry responses, both at work and home.
She's contrasted by the mournful Lupe, by the excellent Wilma Bonet's (familiar from the Mime troupe) Reina and by her own daughter Lupe, well-played with a mix of youthful, energetic friendliness and something of her mother's sardonic cast by Juliana Aiden. Luoe wants to be a lawyer, working on class action suits when she's not skateboarding or practicing hip-hop. But Olga's cynicism is contrasted even more by Reina's niece, newly-arrived young Carmen--wonderfully played by Carla Gallardo--who didn't want to leave home, but bowed to family obligation and honor. Carmen's fresh grace and dignity are immediately noticed by the (too!) boyishly honest driver Jorge (splendidly portrayed by Juan Amador)--and by the Boss, the Anglo facory owner's son, Daryl, a hard-drinking brute acted out with appropriate Staccato physical style by William Hartfield, to the aloof Lalo's increasing consternation.
The volatile mix of all these actors, these elements is touched off by an apparently oft-repeated transgressive incident, amplified by Olga's own trespasses, just sprung from jail for acting out about what she warned against in the first place, and ratched up to tragic proportions--the tragedy of every day in this world of oppression.
But in the end, life goes on, however bittersweet. This impressive production--impressive in the truest sense--doesn't allow the usual kitsch or wistful sentimentalism of too many socially aware melodramas ... its impact is very much what its ironic title promises.
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 7 through April 23 at Brooklyn Preserve, 1433-12th Avenue (between 14th Street/International Boulevard & 15th Street, near Foothill), Oakland. $15-$25 online, pay-what-you-can at the door, season ticket: $125; Season passes: For Artists: $50; For Students: $25.

Theater Review: Unusual Production of Neil Simon's 'The Sunshine Boys'

Friday April 07, 2017 - 06:17:00 PM

" ... pickle is funny; tomato is not funny!"

So the obsessive litany of the old vaudevillean straight man, principal character in Neil Simon's 'The Sunshine Boys,' whose author's start in showbiz as a gagman and TV and radio scriptwriter may've begun with just such systems of accounting.

'Sunshine Boys' hit Broadway in 1972, riding on Simon's great comic successes of the 60s, was made into a movie with Simon staple Walter Matthau and George Burns (jumpstarting Burns'career) in '75--and just a decade before the more reflective second wave of Simon's own career kicked in, in earnest, with 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' in the mid-80s.

'Sunshine Boys' is already different in kind from the doorslammer farces Simon rode to fame on, and somehow oblique to the nostalgia for old showbiz and its personae that could be expected.

A smart, inquisitive production of this curiosity of Simominana--and of the American stage, in every sense--is onstage now at the old Belrose Theatre, a cabaret-style place with chairs and tables and drinks, in San rafael, across from the old public library on Fifth Avenue, appropriately enough, produced by Gary Gonser for marin Onstage, in residence there, and marvellously directed by Ron Nash, an old pro himself, who also plays the part of a TV production man midway through the story. -more-