Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Archive for July, 2007

Wasting away

By awoodall

I don’t know how many readers are getting sick of the daily coverage of the Waste Management lockout talks. Me, I’m reaching saturation. But here’s a story you won’t read about anywhere else: How an Oakland Tribune reporter could have stalled the talks, leading to yet more suffering as garbage piles up. That should tell you just how splendidly the talks are going.

This intrepid reporter was working Sunday, which meant being the only journalist allowed anywhere near the Waste Management-Local 70-City of Oakland negotiations,  being held in the Federal Mediation Center. It just happens the center and the Trib share the same building. So, about 3 p.m. I rode four flights down to seek out the  Waste Management spokesman. Expecting to find a hallway littered with burly garbagemen, unshaven union reps and Waste Management execs in Armani suits, all I found wa an empty hallway. The only sign of life was voices coming from an open door. Since the door was cracked, and there were voices, I figured that would be a good start in finding the spokesman. WRONG. I rapped on the door with the middle knuckle of my right hand only to be set upon a few minutes later by the federal mediator, who would have been less surprised at the second coming of Christ than he was to see  a reporter standing in front of him. I guess he wasn’t told that a NEWSPAPER shares the building. Hello….

Later a security guard chided me on my excursion, warning me that no reporters are allowed in the building. “It’s management policy,” she assured me.  

Hello, again: An entire newsroom is upstairs.   

By interupting, I could jeapordize the future of the ultra-tense negotiations, at least according to the mediator, who added that the negotiators were behind the door I had knocked on.  Right. So, things were going that well, huh?

He showed me to the correct suite, where the people I was seeking actually were, then the situation actually got weirder.

After calling my editor to complain, the manager of the building management company showed up with a security guard outside the Trib’s suite. They suggested, said the gallant editor who spoke to them, that I wait in the parking lot with other reporters. (They were outside because no one is allowed in the building after hours or on weekends except tenants who have been listed by their bosses. When a Chron photographer slipped in with me Sunday on the search for his writer, Henry Lee, he was summarily told to exit through the same way he came in. The management company is incredibly uptight, but that’s another story.) Afterward, a guard was posted to the center’s floor, which was strictly off limits to me.

Here’s a reminder, folks: Reporters knock on doors. And, for the record, I did NOT pound on the door as the mediation folks claimed. But I would do it if it were appropriate. I have to say thanks to my editors, who reminded the management company and the negotiators of that fact.  

Anyway, if I had wanted to snoop, I would have listened to the talks through the open door. So, they were lucky I knocked.

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2007
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From the dept. of ridiculous

By awoodall

Never have so many freaks and geeks been gathered in the Bay Area as Friday.

That’s when normally mature individuals and their offspring  flocked to book stores from Emeryville to Alameda for the unveiling of the newest addition to the many tomes about magic boy wonder Harry Potter. 

Cody’s on Fourth Street was swamped with a crowd more common to rock concerts than book releases centered around a $25 novel about a fictional teenage wizard.

Okay. The kids in their peaked witches hats, Hogwarts-striped scarves and black owl-rimmed Potter specs I can understand. But the middle-age woman dressed like a house elf (Rowling’s stand-ins for beleagured mothers) with giant plastic ears and a white bed sheet, from which poked some funky-looking, pale, hairy legs.  Those legs were scarier than anything J.K. could conjure up. Her partner was dressed as a witch, or wickin as they say in pagan-rich Berkeley.

What would make people stand in line for hours just to get a copy of the last in the Harry Potter series one minute after it was released? I mean, it will still cost the same and have the same words when the sun rises. (Can you say marketing, boys and girls?)

It was enough to induce mother-guilt when my daughter arrived shortly before midnight at Cody’s, only to find a line stretching to the back of the store. We’d be there all night by the time she plunked down her allowance.

Boy, was I was unprepared, never expecting that what I thought would be an event for kids would be mobbed by the over-21 set as though it were Club 54 in its heydey. I’ve always had the worse pop-culture instincts. I watched Miami Vice as much as I could when it first appeared on TV because I was sure its pastel-coated vision of cops and robbers would never catch on and the show be cancelled asap. Uh huh…  

But what happens to adults’ literary endeavors the rest of the year, when bookstores like Cody’s are bare in comparison to those times every few years when Potter fever sweeps over whole continents with a new Harry book? I ask you this, reader: Why are adults proud of reading — obsessing about — juveline fiction whose hero is a teenage boy? Too much time on their hands? Or are words just so much easier to read than those pesky grown-up books (not counting romance novels and the like, you smart alecs)?

Posted on Sunday, July 22nd, 2007
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Dance for Peace, people

By awoodall

Compliments of Berkeley beat reporter, Kristin Bender, comes word of a Dance for Peace, Saturday, July 21, at the Berkeley Marina.

With the Bay as the backdrop and colorful kites flying overhead, Troupe Miari will put on an “interactive performance,” where the dancers are the art. Coo–oool.

At 5 p.m. dancers will form a color wave of veils on the Berkeley Pier, and at 6 p.m. the dancers will come together at the north side of the parking circle at the trail/Bay edge for another performance.

Drummers wishing to accompany the dancers should call event organizer and choreographer Pat at (510) 741-1237.

Posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2007
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Power to the people, Oaxaca style

By awoodall

There’s a cool little show going on at the Front Gallery on Grand Avenue in Oakland. I stumbled across it Friday at the monthly Art Murmur, during the artists’ reception as a guitarist played “Sabor a mi” and guests savored the works about the uprising in the southern Mexico state. 

Called “Oaxaca Resistance and Color,” the show was one of the most relaxed and inviting venues I’ve found along what has become a bit of a rigid, scene-heavy gallery crawl. At about 9:20, someone called out loud to folks that they HAD to leave, neighbors had complained about the noise. People were asked to leave, pronto.  Gallery folks are walking a tightrope between reclaiming public space and dealing with the public, including residents who — surprise — live around the lower Telegraph Avenue area. 

But, back to the Oaxaca show. The music, food and drink made at least that stop along the Art Murmur hospitable — the way it used to be.

The work on display is steeped in the state’s distinctive style of painting and printmaking. A lot of the art reminded me of what I think of as Zapata art: resistance combined with the symbols of Mexico’s history, like corn and soldiers and men in wide-brimmed hats with strands of bullets strung across their breasts.

This time, they’ve been adapted to tell the story of the uprising that exploded June 14, 2006, when the police cracked down on teachers who organized a sit-in in the main square of Oaxaca with the demand of better salaries.

The you know what hit the fan that day.  It hasn’t been cleaned up yet.

Posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2007
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From the department of silly

By awoodall

An Oakland Police dispatcher called out a report of assault with a deadly weapon last week. It should have been routine. But the dispatcher paused, obviously confused, when she added that the weapon reported in the attack was a vacuum cleaner.

Evidently, the suspect — who was on the run — had beaten a police officer with the appliance. Now, THAT is a case of domestic violence.

Posted on Tuesday, July 10th, 2007
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Comedy Kenyan style — dangerous

By awoodall

You know how dictators can be. They just don’t have much of a sense of humor, especially when the joke is on them. That didn’t stop a trio of young Kenyan comedians, Redykyulass, from poking fun at former Kenyan dictator Daniel arap Moi — a dangerous game of David and Goliath. They were the Dave Chappelles of Kenya, expect when their jokes backfired the humor could have cost Walter Mongare, John Kiarie and Tony Njuguna their lives.

Having survived Moi’s demise, Kenya’s beloved trio is bringing their act to Oakland Sunday.

Without a dictator to be the butt of their jokes, Redykyulass is making audiences laugh with their satirical Kenyan First Family, led by a psychopathic first lady who thinks nothing of storming news stations at night to scream at broadcasters, and slap unsuspecting reporters – all broadcasted live on air.
Who could imagine such a thing?

They will be joined by comic Churchill of Red Corner and singer Linda Muthama, both runners up in Kenya’s version of American Idol, Tusker Project Fame.
The two-hour show kicks off 4 p.m. at Karibean City, 1408 Webster St. All ages welcome. Advance tickets are $20, or $25 at the door. For tickets or more information, visit the Web site www.blackmedley.com, or call (510) 732-6515 or (707) 631-5255. The e-mail is redykyulass@blackmedley.com

Posted on Saturday, July 7th, 2007
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