SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Sunday January 05, 2020 - 05:10:00 PM

News Flash: Dream Edition

I seldom recall my dreams these days but, this morning, I woke up with a great fragment from Dreamland lodged in my head.

Just before waking, I dreamed I heard a newscast reporting a car theft that was pulled off by a criminal located "nine miles from the scene of the crime."

How could this happen?

According to the reporter-on-scene: "The clever thief hacked a self-driving car."

Spinning in a New Year

On New Year's Day, I lost two quarters in a North Berkeley Laundromat.

Rather than risking a third coin on yet another broken drier, I set out in search of another site. As it turned out, a better omen for 2020 was waiting for me at the Central Launderette at 2462 Shattuck.

While I was finishing up and folding my last batch of freshly cooked shorts and shirts, the on-site operator (who typically inhabits a dry-cleaning service behind a counter in the back of the space) walked up with a smile, handed me two quarters, and said "Happy New Year." 

She explained that she was handing out coins to "seniors" as a New Years' gift. 

The kind lady was named Akoshia and she hails from Ghana. 

I think I've found a new home for my rainy day laundry runs. 

After 45 Years, Beach Blanket Folds 

Beach Blanket Babylon is no more but the long-running Club Fugazi fantasia went out with a bang. The Chronicle's Lily Janiak was on hand for the final performance of the cast and crew of this unique theatrical institution. (I really hope these final shows were captured on film or videotape. In the meantime, the Chron's BBB-post-closing podcasts are available online at 

And, as the curtain comes down on Snow White, Glinda, and King Louis, we have Janiak's signature over-wrought/over-writ recap of the event. By Janiak's account ("It's bye-bye for Babylon"), Tammy Nelson's closing rendition of the Patsy Cline song, "Crazy," was especially moving. Nelson, Janiak wrote, "got so lost in the loogie-hocking of a caricatured French accent that she seemed to dislocate her jaw or, later, suck one of her eyeballs out of its socket and into her sinuses." 


Justice for Trump Tattler 

Ex-Trump campaign aid Rick Gates has been justly rewarded for betraying his Orange Master. Gates was facing a minimum four-year prison term for committing financial crimes and lying to the FBI but Gate flipped and spilled some beans that lead to the criminal conviction of two other Trump advisors—Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. In exchange for cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russiagate probe, Gates had his prison sentence reduced to 300 hours of community service and was a modest sentence of 45 days in jail. 

It gets better: According to the New York Times, Gates will be allowed to "serve the jail time intermittently, if he prefers, such as on weekends." 

It's not everyday that a convicted criminal is allowed to chose how to serve out a jail sentence. 

Jail-time Suicides 

In 2019, 36 inmates committed suicide in California's prisons—an alarming 26% uptick from the previous year. According to the Associated Press, Contra Costa Country is attempting to brighten the lives of inmates held in solitary confinement by "offering cookies" in exchange for following prison orders. 

Something else that might reduce prison suicides: ending the practice of solitary confinement. 

Back to the Future: Hope from Nepal 

Kirstin Miller, Executive Director of EcoCity Builders recently shared some year-end thoughts. "As 2019 closes," Miller reflected, "many of us are unsure of what the future holds. Our planet, brimming with life made possible by the protection from a thin blanket of gases and tiny particles, continues spinning through the cosmos into the unknown." 

Despite our precarious times, Miller found cause for hope, writing: "This year, I had the good fortune to spend part of my time in Nepal, where it's currently 2076, approximately 56 years ahead of the Gregorian Calendar. 

"I find Nepal especially fascinating because the traditional city builders of the Kathmandu Valley were highly sophisticated urbanists who maintained a socially and ecologically balanced civilization for many centuries. My wish for the coming year is that we go 'back to the future' and explore the vast knowledge pool available to us from places like 2076 Nepal. Indigenous urban systems and social architecture there hold promise for new data collectives and resilient city design here." 

Targeting America's Assassin-in-Chief 

If War Criminal DJ Trump's stunt of assassinating a major foreign leader to (as he explained it) "stop a war" was part of a strategy to distract the public from his ongoing impeachment problems, it may be working. (Nothing "focuses the mind" more than the prospect of a Nuclear World War.) 

All the more reason to cheer Bernie Sanders for stepping out front to confront the mortal danger that is Donald Trump. 


It's an Ill Wind that Blows No Good? 

A recent report on KPFA's Ecoshock poscast left some listeners wondering if climate change might have some positive effects. One scientist proposed that the stronger winds that accompany "extreme weather" could provide more power for wind turbines. A positive. But there are many downsides to climate collapse and here's just one: rising temperatures are expected to degrade the performance of solar panels. 

This fact gives Big Oil and Big Coal interests yet another reason to pollute the planet — i.e., the more heated our carbonated our skies become, the more it will harm the infrastructure of competing, solar-based sustainable technologies. 

Innovate or incinerate: that is the question—and that is the challenge. 

Have a 20/20 Visionary New Year. 

Well Done, Dick! 

The activists with The Brady PAC are celebrating a decision by the Dick’s Sporting Goods chain to destroy $5 million worth of guns pulled it's store shelves. And, to show their approval, the anti-gun group has posted an online "thank you" card that people can sign. 

"If enough people sign our card," the Brady team notes, "it’ll create massive public pressure to force other companies to pull assault weapons from their shelves." Unfortunately, the Brady PAC's pitch ends on a prissy note when potential supporters are asked to check one of the following two options: 

"Yes, I’ll donate right now! 

No, I don't care about saving lives." 

Singing Along with Jolly Giulinani 

The travails of Trump Consigliere Rudy Giulinani prompted a number of pundits to celebrate the holiday season with politically charged renditions of a popular Christmas ditty. Here's one from Public Citizen's Robert Weissman: 

Rudy the Red-nosed Grifter 

You know Bill Barr and Bannon, the Pencer, and ’Vanka
McConnell the stupid, Don Jr. and Bolton
But do you recall
Trump’s most rotten lackey of all?
Rudy the Red-Nosed Grifter
Has a very shiny face
Now that we all have seen him
What a national disgrace!
All of the other fraudsters
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudy
Join in all their swindler games
Then one ugly election year
Donald came to say
“Rudy, with your lousy brain
Help me quid pro quo Ukraine”
But now the people loathe him
And we’re shouting out with glee
“Rudy the Red-Nosed Grifter
You’ll go DOWN in history!”

And here's another from CBS commentator Dave Ross: