Handel’s MESSIAH by American Bach Soloists in Grace Cathedral

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday December 13, 2018 - 11:02:00 AM

In this their 30th season, American Bach Soloists performed Handel’s Messiah for the 21st consecutive year in San Francisco’s inspiring Grace Cathedral. Along with the American Bach Choir, American Bach Soloists were led by their founder, Jeffrey Thomas, in three performances of the Messiah, December 12-14. At the December 12 concert, I was struck anew by how much the text of Handel’s Messiah by Charles Jennens suggests Christianity’s debt to earlier religious beliefs and practices. After an overture in the French manner that opens slowly then becomes faster in the second section, the tenor follows with a recitative and aria. Here the tenor was Aaron Sheehan, and he launched into the florid aria, “Ev’ry Valley shall be exalted.” The words of this aria had always mystified me. Yet, suddenly, it dawned on me that this was a celebration of the coming of spring, when, indeed, ev’ry valley blooms miraculously, and the earth is renewed. Moreover, the fact that we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection at Easter, i.e., at the coming of spring, is no coincidence, for Christianity simply incorporated far earlier religions’ celebration of earth’s renewal in spring. What better way could there be to begin a celebration of the Messiah than by invoking the age-old agrarian cycle of earth’s renewal? -more-

Page One

How Berkeley Voted in November’s High Turnout Election

Rob Wrenn
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:15:00 PM

Wicks won by 250 votes; Prop 10 won big

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has certified the results of the November Election and released the Statement of Vote with a breakdown by precinct and city.

Berkeley votes supported affordable housing funding in November, voting overwhelmingly for Proposition 1 which authorizes $4 billion in bonds for affordable housing, and for the local affordable housing bond measure, Measure O. State and local bond funds, along with County affordable housing bond funds approved in 2016 and Measure U-1 revenues, will be able to help fund a substantial amount of below market affordable housing in Berkeley. -more-

Public Comment

Whose Streets? Tech's Streets, or Public Policy by BID

Carol Denney
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:47:00 PM

It's simple. Public sidewalks are too crowded for homeless people, but wide enough for waddling robots and monolithic, data-sucking electronic sidewalk billboards with 65-inch screens. Public sidewalks are dangerously over-filled with backpacks and bedrolls but have a sad aura of being deserted without unpermitted signboards, tables, chairs, and rolling racks of commercial merchandise. Personal belongings must not exceed a certain square footage on a sidewalk - for public safety's sake - but those same sidewalks would be downright lonely without scooters.

There's no inconsistency here. The visible presence of poverty makes people sad and makes governments look inadequate. People trying to panhandle enough for a night's shelter at the low-rent hotel make the 9.3 million expenditure on the renovated BART plaza look like a questionable set of priorities. Moving around the deck chairs is otherwise at least mildly entertaining.

The Berkeley City Council's agony over blankets and bedrolls blocking public sidewalks necessitating a raft of bewildering new restrictions was nowhere to be found in their haste to make way for 65-inch electronic screen kiosks spewing ads slated for those same public sidewalks. The necessity of having even more refinements on the six-feet-from here, four-feet-from there, only-so-many-dogs carnival of sidewalk restrictions which only seem to apply to a rarified few was a serious issue, their earnest discussion implied. Imagine if somebody tripped and fell. -more-

Lies, Lies and More Lies

Harry Brill
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:40:00 PM

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the economy next year in California and the rest of the nation is likely to slow. Why? Among the important reasons the Chronicle gives is because the economy "is running out of workers". The following day the caption in the Chronicle's front page claims that there is a "serious shortage of Muni Drivers". What do we make of these claims? -more-

Political Impoverishment

Steve Martinot
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 12:52:00 PM

The corporate economy is an impoverishment machine. When prices go up, the people who have to pay those prices get poorer. When rent levels rise, renters are impoverished. The corporate economy inherits this from capitalism. In capitalism, profit levels depended on keeping wage levels low. Today, inflation, which has become an economic norm, amounts to a pay cut. Those who organize unions in order to make up for their loss of pay are called greedy, but they are only fighting to stay in the same place. Those who build more market rate housing are acclaimed for meeting a need in a so-called housing crisis. But the real crisis is that those who need housing can’t afford market rate. There is only an affordable housing crisis, as more people are impoverished by corporate economics. -more-


Jagjit Singh
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:28:00 PM

Finally, the Senate is flexing its atrophied muscles by voting to advance a resolution to end military support for the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war in Yemen. This marks the first time in U.S. history that the Senate has resurrected the War Powers Resolution Act to end the monstrous illegal war in Yemen. This is also a rebuke of President Trump’s handling of the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. -more-

December Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday December 07, 2018 - 03:05:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! -more-


As Usual, Kids Come Last. Are These Our Priorities?

Becky O'Malley
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 09:19:00 AM

It’s time for us all to get in touch with our inner Grinch. For some reason, it seems to be okay to get grinchy on the subject of Christmas, but many other sacred cows are protected territory. I’ve got my eye on one of them.

Friday’s Chronicle (I no longer call it the Comical since the news got so bad) has two stories which, when juxtaposed, are profoundly irritating.

First, on the front page, we learn that, because of some funny accounting, “All of a sudden, San Francisco has an extra $181 million to spend. It comes from excess education funds, and some officials hope that’s exactly how it will be spent: on education. Specifically, teacher pay raises.”

In your dreams, Josephine. Life is hard in the big city, and both mayor and supervisors have already thought of a passel of non-education ways to spend the money, all of them virtuous but none of them moving teachers any closer to a livable income in a place where it’s too expensive to live.

But tell that to the protagonist of story #2. This one can be found in the section of the Chronicle that’s handy to line the cat box, easy to find because it’s printed on green paper. Here we learn that an employee of the University of California at Berkeley, my very own alma mater, is getting a raise, from $1.5 million annually to about $3.25 million, give or take some chump change. He should be able to live on that.

And no, Josephine, he’s NOT a teacher. What’s he done to deserve this bonanza? -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE:Turning California Totally Blue

Bob Burnett
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:33:00 PM

In case you missed it, on November 6th, a blue wave washed over California. Democrats took all major statewide offices, elected a second Democratic Senator, and seized 46 of 53 congressional districts. Nonetheless, California Democrats won't be satisfied until the Golden State's congressional delegation is totally blue. What will it take to accomplish this?

64 percent of California's eligible voters cast a ballot on November 6th -- more than 12.3 million. Most statewide races weren't close: Democrat Gavin Newsom won the governor's race with 61.9 percent of the vote. California's most controversial ballot initiative -- GOP-sponsored proposition 6 that would have repealed a fuel tax -- was defeated by a 13.6 percent margin.

In preparation for the midterm elections, California Democrats focused on seven congressional districts where, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican incumbent was retained: CA 10, 21, 25, 39, 45, 48, and 49. When the dust settled, Democrats had taken all these seats. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: George H.W. Bush Dropped The Ball On The AIDS Crisis

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 07, 2018 - 01:53:00 PM

George H.W. Bush died on the eve of World AIDS Day, established in 1988 to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and mourn those lost to the disease. As a father of 19-year Michael who died of AIDS in 1984, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I am dismayed that the media has focused primarily on Bush’s “kinder and gentler” image, with no mention of his inaction on the AIDS/HIV crisis. This inaction allowed the virus to spread, stigma to grow, and left so many vulnerable people out in the cold. -more-

Smithereens: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 12:02:00 PM

Recalibrating the Tesla Kerfuffle

At 4:30 AM on December 3, the Highway Patrol surrounded a Tesla Model S speeding down Whipple Avenue at 70 mph with is driver blissfully asleep and inebriated. The driver, Alexander Samek, a Los Gatos executive was cited with "Driving Under the Influence." (An easy-to-beat rap, since he wasn't driving.)

Tesla immediately took a lot of grief, with critics pointing to the incident as an example of careless social-and-automotive engineering. The negative press was so intense that Tesla initially didn't even bother to issue any statements in its defense.

But here's a thought: Consider how this incident might have played out if the driver had, say, suffered a stroke.

Suddenly, Tesla would be hailed for creating a life-saving technology and Elon Musk might be announcing a new auto-update that would not only drive the car in the case of an incapacitated driver but could sense the emergency and change course to head for the nearest hospital.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Validation and Invalidation

Jack Bragen
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:04:00 PM

People with psychiatric diagnoses are denied decent, gratifying existences. This, in part, is a direct result of being disabled. If we are unable to work, and/or conform to the expected social norms, it is very hard for us to live in the human environment as it currently exists. -more-

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activists' Calendar, Dec.9-19

Kelly Hammagren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday December 08, 2018 - 09:16:00 AM

Sunday, December 9, 2018

No City Sponsored events found

Monday, December 10, 2018

Housing Advisory Commission – Housing Trust Fund Subcommittee, 2:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, Dogwood Conf. Room, Agenda: Recommendation to Reissue RFP to Consider Measure O Funds, Proposals Received 1638 Stuart (Land Trust), 1900 alcatraz (Satellite Affordable Housing ), Predevelopment Loan for 2001 ashby


Youth Commission, 6:30 pm, 1730 Oregon St, Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center, Agenda: team Building Exercise, Response to San Pablo Shooting, Youth Homelessness, Gender Neutral Bathrooms,


Tax the Rich rally with Occupella sing along, Cancelled -more-

Giovanni Porta’s IFIGENIA IN AULIDE: Ars Minerva Ventures into the 18th Century

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday December 07, 2018 - 02:00:00 PM

Having specialized in reviving long-lost 17th century Venetian operas, Céline Ricci’s Ars Minerva company now has revived a long-forgotten 18th century opera. Giovanni Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide (1738) was given two performances November 30 and December 1 at ODC Theatre in San Francisco’s Mission District. Porta, Venetian by birth, was a popular composer of thirty operas, which were performed in the early 1700s throughout Italy, Germany, and England. However, only four of Porta’s operas remain extant. His Ifigenia in Aulide score was found in Dresden. Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide premiered in Munich during Carnival season in 1738, and as far as we know it has not been performed since until now. -more-

Back Stories



As Usual, Kids Come Last. Are These Our Priorities? 12-08-2018

Public Comment

Whose Streets? Tech's Streets, or Public Policy by BID Carol Denney 12-07-2018

Lies, Lies and More Lies Harry Brill 12-07-2018

Political Impoverishment Steve Martinot 12-08-2018

Yemen Jagjit Singh 12-07-2018

December Pepper Spray Times By Grace Underpressure 12-07-2018


Handel’s MESSIAH by American Bach Soloists in Grace Cathedral Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 12-13-2018

How Berkeley Voted in November’s High Turnout Election Rob Wrenn 12-07-2018


THE PUBLIC EYE:Turning California Totally Blue Bob Burnett 12-07-2018

ECLECTIC RANT: George H.W. Bush Dropped The Ball On The AIDS Crisis Ralph E. Stone 12-07-2018

Smithereens: Reflections on Bits & Pieces Gar Smith 12-08-2018

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Validation and Invalidation Jack Bragen 12-07-2018

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activists' Calendar, Dec.9-19 Kelly Hammagren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 12-08-2018

Giovanni Porta’s IFIGENIA IN AULIDE: Ars Minerva Ventures into the 18th Century Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 12-07-2018