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Alameda’s ‘A-Town’ Film Gets Extended Showing

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“A-Town,” the newest project from director Christopher Leonard and All Hands Evolution Films, made its successful Alameda debut at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 25, at the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex.

The locally made film proved so popular with the community that it is being shown again this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — February 1, 2 and 3 –at 6 p.m., and a second show will be added for 7:30 p.m. if the 6 p.m. showing sells out.

The one-hour film was shot in Alameda and portrays a troubled rookie police officer and a struggling single mother “whose lives collide as a pair of merciless criminals descend upon a quiet California suburb,” (aka Almaden – but actually Alameda), according to the movie’s promotional materials.

“A-Town” is intended to be a pilot for a television series and is being shown in the Bay Area in order to rally enthusiasm for the project.

A trailer of the film can be seen online.

“A-Town” is being shown in a 173-seat digital cineplex theater, not in the historic main theater. Tickets are about $7.75 for adults.

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Alamedans Can Donate Jackets, Shoes

East Bay Front Runners and Walkers recently hosted its annual membership meeting at La Penca Azul on Bay Farm Island.

As part of the group’s event, members brought used jackets and coats for One Warm Coat. And donations of used coats and jackets are still be accepted through Monday, January 331, at the restaurant, which is located at 891 B Island.

Last year, the running organization collected close to 60 coats. More recently, in December, EBFRW’s members donated $560 to the Midway Shelter of Alameda. And they hope that coats being collected this month can be donated to the Alameda charity, as well, says the group’s vice president, Michael J. Collier.

The group also collects old running shoes for local homeless shelters and hospitals at its runs on the first Saturday of every month. Runners meet at Veteran’s Court on Bay Farm.

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Alameda Film Comes to the ‘Big’ Screen

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“A-Town,” the newest project from director Christopher Leonard and All Hands Evolution Films, will make its Alameda debut at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 25, at the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex.

The one-hour film, shot in Alameda, will also be shown at the same time on Wednesday and Thursday, January 26 and 27. Cast and crew are planning to attend Tuesday’s showing and hope to mingle with the community.

“The story follows a troubled rookie police officer and a struggling single mother whose lives collide as a pair of merciless criminals descend upon a quiet California suburb,” (aka Alamaden – but actually Alameda), according to the movie’s promotional materials.

“A-Town” is intended to be a pilot for a television series and is being shown in the Bay Area in order to rally enthusiasm for the project.

A trailer of the film can be seen online.

The plot of the movie centers on rookie Almaden Police Officer Derek Cooper, who “copes with depression, micromanagement, and corrupt city politics,” and Stephanie Davis, “a struggling single mother.” They go after two “opportunist criminals” launching “a violent takeover of Almaden’s small methamphetamine trade.”

The film is shot in High-Definition on a budget of about $150,000, most of which has been covered by donated equipment and volunteer time. Still, “A-Town’s” supporters and organizers need to raise funds for the pilot show’s marketing.

” ‘A-Town’ is a dramatization, a fantasy about what could be lurking just beneath the calm and peaceful exterior of a place like Alameda, a nice town that is bordered on all sides by crime,” said Leonard, a Coast Guard Veteran. “It’s a police show, but it’s really about people, and how we treat each other, for better or worse.”

Leonard, a former U.S. Coast Guard boarding officer, hopes the piece will be “as technically and tactically accurate as possible. I hate fake-looking cop movies,” he said.

He has been making digital shorts in Alameda for four years and earned a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking from the Art Institute of California-San Francisco following his time in the Coast Guard. Joining him on the production is fellow Alamedan filmmaker Oliver Ferrasci.

Ferrasci says “A-Town” will be showing in a 173-seat digital cineplex theater, not in the historic main theater.

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Alameda Library Showcases Travel, History of Turkey

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The West End Branch Library kicked off its series of informal travel talks on January 6 with a presentation on Turkey. The “armchair travel talks” will continue to be held on the first Thursday of each month through June and begin at 7 p.m.

Earlier this month, library visitors were treated to an assortment of historical and cultural information shared by Omer Karacaylak, a professional tour guide, and some delicious home-made Turkish treats prepared by Nurgun Karacaylak, his wife.

Turkey, known officially as the Republic of Turkey, is a Eurasian country that stretches across the Anatolian peninsula in western Asia and Thrace in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe, Karacaylak explained. “It’s really at the juncture of three continents — Europe, Asia and Africa,” he said, “and that means it isn’t easy to describe.”

Karacaylak shared photos, maps and videos highlighting the country’s rich geography, history and culture with about two dozen guests. He described Greece and Roman ruins that are popular tourist spots, as well as religious sites with important significance to Muslims and Christians.

The library’s next talk will focus on China.

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Alameda Middle School Basketball Season Begins

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The Wood Middle School Beavers played their Lincoln Middle School rivals recently as part of the start of Alameda Education Foundation’s 2011 middle school basketball season.

Wood, Lincoln and the Academy of Alameda each host boys and girls basketball teams, and the teams compete three times in regular-season league play, according to AEF.

“The students really enjoy being able to play for their schools,” said AEF President Bill Sonneman, in a statement. “It gives them a great sense of pride and provides a wonderful sense of spirit throughout the whole school community. Being able to provide this program has such a direct positive impact on both the students and the schools.”

The middle-school playoffs begin the week of February 21, with the championships set for the first week of March. A complete schedule is found on AEF website.

Basketball is one of three sports sponsored by AEF, and the program receives no district funding. Sports programs were cut from the middle-school budgets four years ago due to budget shortfalls from the state, says AEF, and AEF began running the programs in the winter of 2009.

Since that time, over 350 student athletes from across the Island have participated in volleyball (fall), basketball (winter) and track & field (spring). The AEF sports program requires academic eligibility among its participants and emphasizes teamwork and sportsmanship.

Alameda residents can support the program by attending games. The entry fees are $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for students; the fees help to offset officiating costs.

AEF is also seeking donations to sustain the program through the 2010-2011 school year and beyond. Donations may be made on the AEF website or by contacting AEFSports@alamedaeducation.org.

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Thanks to Al Wright and AEF for the picture (above) of Wood and Lincoln battling it out at the 2010 basketball championships.

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Alameda: Oops We Did It Again… and on Page A1

The latest political news affecting the Island was splashed across the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, January 15: “Alameda City Attorney Wants New Job Plus Old One.”

That big splash on what appears to be a slow-news weekend was not what Alameda needs.

The news that Alameda City Attorney Teresa Highsmith took a job as city attorney in Barstow on December 20 without quitting her six-figure-salary job on the Island is now a topic of conversation across the Bay Area.

You can read what people from San Francisco and other areas think about us — and what some Alamedans are sharing — by browsing the comments section of the front-page story.

Here’s a taste:

- Can anyone explain why the taxpayers of Alameda allow themselves to keep getting financially abused by the people we pay to work for us?

- It may not be a conflict of interest for Highsmith to work for Alameda & Barstow, but it smells like a conflict.

- Why put her on paid leave? Why does she still get paid not to work? Fire her!

– The people of Alameda got royally screwed by some shysters, their own laziness, ignorance and diligent oversight. Or maybe it’s just incompetence on the part of the City Council and mayor.

And these are just a sampling of comments.

Others criticize the decision to let City Manager Ann Marie Gallant go, while a few point to Mayor Marie Gilmore and councilmembers Lena Tam and Rob Bonta as being behind the Highsmith mess.

The news about Highsmith first became known on the Island in late December. Thus, the timing of the Chron story is “interesting,” but most likely stems from a lack of other big Bay Area news.

Regardless of the reason, the Chron’s front-page focus on Alameda is not good. Neither is the fact that both Gallant and Highsmith are on paid leave.

“We were blindsided [by Highsmith taking the job in Barstow],” said Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam. “We’re not sure what happened. Right now we’re still in a fact-finding mode.”

The slow response does not bode well for 2011 in Alameda. We need to let our politicians know that we support steps to make things better on the Island — and to not exacerbate the sad paralysis our political situation now seems to be in.

The Highsmith fiasco is certainly not how Alameda should be making headlines… even when it’s a slow-news weekend.

Happy MLK Day!

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Alameda Growing Group Hosts Mini-Workshop

Tonight, Thursday, January 13, from 6– 7:30 p.m., Alameda Backyard Growers is hosting its monthly meting and workshop on pruning and garden-tool maintenance.

The venue is High Street Station coffeehouse, 1303 High Street at Encinal Avenue.

Jocelyn Bentley-Prestwich, general manager of Ploughshares Nursery, will explain how to safely and effectively prune fruit trees. Afterwards, local blacksmith Grant Marcoux will offer tips on keeping your garden tools clean, sharp and ready for use.

The groups recently held a successful showing of the film “Dirt!” “We counted 70 participants and signed up 17 new ABG members,” group organizers said.

Also, five local gardening/sustainability groups shared information and answered questions about their work:
Alameda County Master Gardeners, Alameda Food Bank, Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition, , Growing Youth Project and Slow Food Alameda.

Alameda Backyard Growers would like to thank all who participated and made the day such a success and welcome to our new members!

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Alameda City Council: Back at It ….

Sorry, Chip, things aren’t turning around in Alameda quite as you predicted.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson wrote on Dec. 31, “After a tumultuous year in Alameda fraught with infighting, accusations and investigations, look for the East Bay’s Quiet Island to get back to business, and identify a new developer and a new plan to redevelop the city-owned Alameda Naval Air Station. In the last week, City Attorney Teresa Highsmith has announced her departure and interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant was not rehired.”

Actually, what transpired on the Island — and summarized in Chip’s last sentence — is the exact cause of the return of tumultuous times to Alameda. (If only he’d seen it coming ….)

Today, Jan. 6, Alameda Journal staff writer Peter Hegarty and other Alameda news sources are reporting that residents are irate over the City Council’s Dec. 28 closed-door decision to place Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant on paid administrative leave — a move that was approved by Mayor Marier Gilmore and City Councilmembers Rob Bonta and Lena Tam.

“It looks like malfeasance,” resident Denise Lai said at the city council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4. “What it looks like is disingenuous.”

“Political payback,” former City Council candidate Adam Gillitt called the decision to oust Gallant.

And on Wednesday, Jan. 5, the chairman of the city’s Economic Development Commission — Horst Breuer — resigned, saying he cannot envision working with the mayor and city council after this decision, according to
another report by Hegarty.

Regardless of what adjectives you care to use to describe it, Alameda’s political (and economic) mess continues. Sadly, it’s just the first week of 2011, too.

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Gilmore’s Role in the Firing of ESPN Announcer Ron Franklin

Apparently Marie Gilmore’s election as the mayor of Alameda is still a hot topic — nationwide.

An online report by Sports by Brooks says that veteran ESPN football announcer Ron Franklin and sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards had a spat before Friday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. ESPN announcers Ed Cunningham and Rod Gilmore attended the meeting where the disagreement occurred.

When the conversation turned to the subject of Marie Gilmore, Rod’s wife, and her election as mayor of Alameda, Edwards tried to contribute to this discussion but said she was shut down by Franklin.

“Listen to me, sweet baby, let me tell you something… ” Franklin is said to have told her.

Edwards then said she told him not to speak to her like that, to which he responded: “OK then, listen to me, a**hole.”

In a statement Monday, Jan. 3, Franklin said: “I said some things I shouldn’t have and am sorry. I deserved to be taken off the Fiesta Bowl.” The announcer, 68, worked on college football and basketball games for ESPN since 1987 and was fired Tuesday, Jan. 4.

And it’s not just the major sports websites that are paying attention to this: the Washington Post has covered it too!

Guess this means there’s no sweet-talking on the Island when it comes sports and politics!

Speaking of which, the city’s website still has Beverly Johnson listed as mayor, despite the fact that Gilmore was sworn in last month.