Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

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Parenthood filming wraps up in Berkeley but crew loses a member

By kbender

Last month, crews used Cragmont School in Berkeley as a set for filming NBC’s pilot program, “Parenthood.’ “Parenthood,” from the creators of “Friday Night Lights” revolves around adult siblings, the Bravermans. The project is based on the 1989 movie by the same name.

Berkeley school district spokesman Mark Coplan said the view of the Golden Gate Bridge and City of San Francisco were primary reasons for crews picking the school for filming.

The filming of  “Parenthood,” with Peter Krause and Maura Tierney, has wrapped up in Berkeley, but not without a tragedy. Nora O’Brien, the executive in charge of drama programming, died April 29 after collapsing in Sausalito, according to the Associated Press.

There were reports on the Internet that the 44-year-old O’Brien actually collapsed while filming on a set in Berkeley. Coplan said that isn’t true. O’Brien had worked for six years at NBC Universal as an executive at the Sci Fi Channel and, most recently, as vice president of drama programming for the company’s studio division, according to the AP. Reports said she suffered a brain anyeurism.

Posted on Friday, May 15th, 2009
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Cal basketball forward to show off drawings of President Obama

By kbender

Some may same that UC Berkeley basketball forward Jamal Boykin’s moves on the court are a work of art.

But another true work of art are the 44 portraits he drew of President Barack Obama and his family. It was Boykin’s New Year’s resolution to renew his passion for drawing, which he’s been doing since he was a youngster.

After drawing one picture of  President Obama in an airport on a Cal basketball road trip, he decided to make it his goal to draw 44 pictures of the 44th  president.

It’s his ultimate goal to one day be able to present the drawings to the president. But for now he will show of the color drawings, which also include Michelle Obama and the couple’s children, on Saturday, May 9 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Alphonse Berber Gallery, 2546 Bancroft Way in Berkeley. Boykin plans to speak at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served. The art includes photography by Cal guard Nican Robinson.

An ABC story on Boykin is here: 
Cal basket guard Patrick Christopher will recite poetry at the event, a fundraiser  for art supplies at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley. Boykin’s drawings will also be shown at galleries in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. in the future.
Boykin is a 6-7, 230-pound forward who was the California state player of the year as a high school senior. He transferred to UC Berkeley from Duke University in 2007.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2009
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UC Berkeley students hold sex and sustainability art exhibit

By kbender

University of California, Berkeley art students are putting on a unique art show Tuesday night. The exhibit is called “Sex and Sustainability” with each piece representing one of the United Nations millennium development goals. Accompanying text will explain why that goal is a “unachievable without considering the population growth factor,’’ organizers said.

The free exhibit will also feature information about health consequences women in developing countries face because of a lack of access to family planning services.

Organizers are holding the event to highlight the connection between population, poverty and women’s empowerment. Globally there is a tremendous unmet need for family planning methods due to numerous barriers that prevent access in the developing world. Giving women access to family planning methods allows her the right to choose her family size – a fundamental human right, organizers said.


“We want to raise awareness about the huge unmet need for family planning and contraceptives in developing countries and highlight its relationship with poverty alleviation,’’ said Kiki Kalkstein, a senior majoring in public health and minoring in global poverty and practice, the fastest growing minor at Cal with more than 150 UC Berkeley undergraduate sin the programs. The inaugural class of 2007-08 had seven students in the minor, UC officials said.

The event, which is from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Alphonse Berber Gallery, 2546 Bancroft Way, will include wine and cheese. Donations are welcome. The event will include speeches from  professor Malcolm Potts and visiting student activist Alberto Lopez Castro of Mexico.

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009
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Oakland attorney to become part of NASCAR race –for a day

By kbender

Eve Chaurand-Fraser is about the farthest thing from a NASCAR racecar driver.
She’s an attorney.

But this Saturday at the Phoenix International Raceway, Chaurand-Fraser, associate general counsel at the Oakland-based search engine Ask.com, will have her name plastered on the front of the Ask.com NASCAR racecar hood driven by Bobby Labonte, the 44-year-old Texas native who drives the No. 96 car. Millions are expected to watch the race.
Chaurand-Fraser, an Oakland woman who has been with the company for three years, gets the honor because of her “superior work” at the company, said a company spokesman.

“Eve keeps the Ask legal engine finely tuned, revved up, and race-ready. Whether it’s focusing on syndication deals, privacy policies, or partner contracts, Eve is always poised and focused on doing whatever she can to help her company and community,’’ said a statement from the company. “Eve is known to go way more than the extra mile for her team, pulling many all-nighters to work out the details on some of the trickiest and most complex deals vital to one of Oakland’s major employers.”

Wow, maybe she should drive the car after all?

Labonte, a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, comes from a racing family. His older Terry Labonte was a NASCAR driver until he retired at the end of the 2006 season. The duo are the only brothers to have both won the championship in NASCAR’s top series. Bobby Labonte is also the uncle of former Nationwide Series winner Justin Labonte.

Posted on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
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New letter of the week… this one is hard to believe….

By kbender

Covering Berkeley for the Oakland Tribune, I get about two dozen emails, letters and phone calls each week about stories I’ve written.

About 80 percent are folks who aren’t pleased with something I’ve written. Understandable. Everyone has the right to their opinion. And sometimes I make a mistake and folks are quick to notice it and point fingers at me for my “agenda.” I don’t know any newspaper reporter who has the time or energy for an “agenda” these days but whatever.

I also get plenty of really nice, thoughtful letters from appreciative readers who are all too happy that there are still four or five of us still covering local news.

But occasionally, I get a letter that is so baffling, neither I nor anyone in the newsroom can make sense of it. So, I’ve decided to start a “letter of the week” item on this blog.
Today, that letter came from Robert in Fremont. I’m not using his last name because he did not include a phone number and I have no way to verify his actual identity. Who knows if he is who he says he is.

Anyway the letter is in regards to the life-threatening injury of former Berkeley tree sitter Tristan Anderson, who was shot in the head with a tear gas canister while protesting on the West Bank on March 13. 
We covered the story that day and today’s story was a follow-up about his current condition and to advance a rally that was being held for him in Oakland.

Anderson, 38, had been involved in a demonstration in the West Bank village of Naalin to support villagers who have been trying to stop Israel from confiscating their farmland to build a separation barrier.  He was struck in the right temple by a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli border police, according to the Northern California International Solidarity Movement.

Anderson has been in the intensive care unit at a hospital near Tel Aviv for nearly three weeks following several surgeries, including one to remove part of his frontal lobe in his brain. He also may lose his right eye.
OK, so on to the letter from Robert in Fremont:

“This guy is a rabble rouser who spends his time traveling the world in order to agitate.  Why don’t you folks in the media do some investigating into how and why these activists do what they do and what it accomplishes? 
“Obviously, Tristan doesn’t have a real job, so where does he get the money to travel the world to protest?  So the guy got hit in the head with a tear gas canister– too damn bad. 
“I’m sure the person who shot the canister was NOT aiming directly at his head.  It was an unfortunate accident that would not have happened had he not been there in the first place. 

“Life is a gamble, and this guy put himself into harm’s way once too often.  You close your article with a quote from (friend Matthew) Taylor which reveals your true objective, to trash Israel for their `continuous violation of Palestinian human rights.’ 
“What about the human rights of all of the innocent Israeli citizens murdered by Palestinian suicide bombers over the years, or doesn’t that concern you and your liberal friends???:
“So the guy got hit in the head with a tear gas canister– too damn bad.”

Wow. I can honestly say that no matter what your politics — and Robert from Fremont don’t try to guess mine because you won’t — that statement is mean, uncaring and shameful. 
Robert from Fremont also included an excerpt from an article in the Jerusalem Post regarding Anderson that I will post here for the sake of complete accuracy:

“We want to know the truth of what happened, and we want justice for our son,” Anderson’s father, Michael, told reporters at a press conference he and his wife (Nancy Anderson) held in Jerusalem.
The “command inquiry” that the IDF has launched is not about finding liability but rather investigating operational flaws, said [Michael Sfard], adding that this type of investigation did not have the same investigatory power to collect evidence as a criminal one and would allow the Border Police to coordinate their testimony.

“(Tristan) has always been interested in how societies in conflict resolve their issues,” said Michael, reading from a handwritten statement.
“He has gone to many dangerous places. He went to Iraq during the Second Gulf War, and spent years in Central America right after the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, advocating for social justice.”

Maybe Anderson needs to spend some time in Fremont. At least one person there has a thing or two to learn about social justice.

Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
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Historic Telegraph Avenue photos to be displayed

By kbender

Whatever protests, demonstrations or civil unrest happens in Berkeley these days, it will never compare to Berkeley’s 1960s scene. Photographer Elio De Pisa was there and he took thousands of photographs of happenings in and around  Telegraph Avenue’s Caffe Mediterraneum.

De Pisa, a native of Rome, managed Telegraph Avenue’s Caffe Mediterraneum between 1960 and 1972 and  again from 1978-1990. He was seldom without his Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera. At that time the owners  had a strictly enforced policy of no photography inside the cafe, with De Pisa being the only exception.
De Pisa, died in 2002 at age 68 but his pictures live on. Between 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, his wife Diane De Pisa, will discuss some of the photographs that will be on display through June 18. A book, De Pisa’s “photo diary” of the times, is being compiled by his wife with the help of designer Lucien Delia and photographer Nick Cedar.
For more information contact ddepisa@att.net. Caffe Mediterraneum is at 2475 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2009
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Ashby Flowers to stay put after neighborhood pressure on Whole Foods

By kbender

Last week we told you that Ashby Flowers, the 50-year-old flower and plant shop at the corner of Ashby and Telegraph avenues, was being driven out of business by corporate giant Whole Food Market, which owns the shop building.

Ashby Flowers got some good news late this week– Whole Foods has dropped its plan to take over the spot with a coffee shop, according to a statement from a publicity company representing Whole Foods. ”

During our conversations with Ashby Flowers and with members of the community that began in spring 2008, it has become clear that Ashby Flowers is indeed a treasured asset to the local community and that it should remain where it is,” said the statement from Jennifer Marples with Koa Communications, a San Francisco publicity firm representing the market. “In the spirit of being a good neighbor and a community-focused business, we have decided to shelve our plans to take over the space in July 2009, and have asked Ashby to stay on.”

Ah, isn’t that nice, a corporate giant looking out for the little guys. Almost makes me want  to send them a spring bouquet.

The move to let the flower shop stay came after our blog post and involvement from the Halcyon Neighborhood Association, which covers the area including and immediately to the southwest of the Whole Foods Market on Telegraph Avenue.

Fliers about things the association is involved in go to nearby 900 households, and an electronic newsletter reaches 400 households and another 150 thought a listserv in the Le Conte neighborhood, association officials said. The association had told Whole Foods that any changed used to Ashby Flowers would be met with “strong neighborhood opposition” because it would not only kill a mom and pop business but replacing it with a coffee shop would also impact other nearby independent cafes.

The statement went on to talk about how Whole Foods Market has “always been committed to the Berkeley community,” employing more than 200 local residents, and supporting local businesses, artisans, farmers and other vendors.

“Part of that process means being a good listener. In the case of Ashby Flowers, we’ve heard what our customers and neighbors have had to say, loud and clear. We look forward to a continued relationship with this company that clearly has a loyal, local following, and we wish them great success in the future.”

Wow, maybe we should upgrade that spring bouquet to a dozen roses.

Posted on Friday, March 6th, 2009
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Small flower shop wilting under Whole Foods takeover

By kbender

It seems there is a Wal-Mart-esque story brewing in Berkeley. But this time it’s not Wal-Mart that’s at fault for driving another mom and pop business out of town.

It’s Whole Foods, the 29-year-old natural food grocery that prides itself on socially responsible ingredients, buying directly from local farmers and growers and providing shoppers with everything from massages to hemp clothing to gelato stands.

After more than 50 years, Ashby Flowers, the flower and plant shop at the corner of Ashby and Telegraph avenues, will be forced to close at end of July because Whole Foods, the corporation that owns the shop’s building,  has declined to renew the shop’s lease, said flower shop spokeswoman Stacey Simon.

Started by a group of 19 people in Texas in 1980, Whole Foods has long prided itself on its “core values,” which are posted on its Web site.

Core values include selling the  highest quality natural and organic products available; satisfying and delighting our customers; supporting team members happiness and excellence; creating wealth through profits and growth; caring about our communities and our environment; and creating  ongoing win-win partnerships with our suppliers.

Call me crazy, but killing the livelihood of people who sank their life savings into a shop doesn’t sound like “caring about our communities.”

Owners Iraj Misaghi and Marcy Simon, who bought the shop in 1995, have since expanded the store’s customer base and developed business relationships with the area’s major businesses and institutions.

“We’ve worked hard to support our customers and be a good neighbor,” said Simon. “And I realize that times are tough right now. But to build their business on the backs of small local businesses seems to go against the core values that Whole Foods publicizes on its Web site.”

Simon said Whole Foods won’t tell them why they won’t renew the lease.

“But we’ve learned they plan to put a coffee shop in the space we occupy. So, they kill two birds with one stone:  they get rid of the competition and drive customers away from the three or four independently owned coffee shops that have been here for years.”

Simon said this is yet another example of Whole Foods talking out of both sides of its proverbial mouth.
“And it’s not the first time. There are lots of examples of its mercenary behavior. We all might expect this sort of thing from traditional big box stores like Wal-Mart, but Whole Foods has done a really good job of snowing the public,’’ she said.

Simon says many recent stories and blog entries show that Whole Foods is straying from its roots. Here are a few:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/28/dining/28whole.html (

But the flower shop owners won’t be fighting their battle alone. In a letter to Whole Foods Market Northern Region President David Lannon, Berkeley’s Halcyon Neighborhood Association decried the market’s decision to expand its operations by removing the flower shop that has stood outside the Berkeley store for more than 50 years.

“In addition to our support for renewal of the Ashby Flowers’ lease, we feel it’s important for the Whole Foods Market management team to understand that any application for a changed use at Ashby Flowers’ site is likely to meet with strong neighborhood opposition,” the letter states. “We were told that a café where customers can pick up a quick cup of coffee or a sandwich is the plan once Ashby Flowers is evicted. Please note that we believe that this change in use… would be detrimental to our neighborhood.”
The Halcyon Neighborhood Association covers the area including and immediately to the southwest of the Whole Foods. It casts a wide net. Flyers go to nearby 900 households, and an electronic newsletter reaches 400 households and another 150 households though a listserv in the Le Conte neighborhood, association officials said.

The letter also says that Ashby Flowers has been there to help neighbors celebrate and mourn the key milestones of our lives for several generations.

“In addition, we’re concerned that creating a café on the corner would have a negative impact on another locally owned business, Mokka Café, which is just a block to the south, as well as on local cafés to the north on Telegraph. While we appreciate the community-minded spirit that Whole Foods Market often embodies, it’s simply not appropriate for its physical plant to expand at the expense of valuable local businesses that contribute so much to our neighborhood.”

Posted on Thursday, February 26th, 2009
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Country Joe McDonald running open mic in Berkeley

By kbender

Country Joe McDonald who still lives in Berkeley, is running an open mic at the
Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall this Friday, Feb,. 27, organizers of the event said.

The event is at 7 p.m. and Country Joe will be back in town on March 27. 

Besides a steady touring schedule, Country Joe has been running the open mic for the last ten months.  “We need more spaces for people to play music. We’re going for the old-style coffee house atmosphere, where people can just relax and be themselves, and have a little fun,” he said in a news release.

The performer, who recorded 33 albums over a 40 year career, said he likes to hear new talent when he’s in town. This month’s event will feature bluesman Roger Brown, who runs his own blues jam on Sunday nights at Smokey Blues BBQ at 3415 Telegraph Ave. 

He usually plays with Billy and the Thrillers but he’ll be running solo for this performance.

The open mic is at 1924 Cedar Street at Bonita, two blocks below Shattuck in North Berkeley.  It is wheelchair accessible. Organizers are asking for a $5 to $10 donation for the open mic event. Performers may begin signing up at 5:30 p.m.

Posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
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Blank Berkeley newspaper a sign of hard journalistic times

By kbender

The front of Berkeley Daily Planet newspaper is a big white space today except for a cartoon picture of man holding a blank newspaper and the caption “Without you, there’s no Planet.”

It’s eye-catching, and a little silly but there’s a serious reason behind today’s cover.

The Berkeley Daily Planet, like thousands of newspapers around the country, is in financial trouble and struggling to stay afloat, say Becky and Mike O’Malley, who have run the paper for nearly six years.

Advertising revenue is way down, and the O’Malleys are looking for a new way to support the paper, which last May scaled down the print edition from Tuesdays and Fridays to Thursdays. It’s also published online daily and the O’Malleys say that going online-only could be one solution.

Now they are asking their readers to cough up some cash so reporters can keep on covering the news.

The O’Malleys have launched the Planet Fund for Local Reporting to raise money to support the newspaper. They’re even exploring the idea making the fund a tax-exempt nonprofit. Want to tell them how you feel about this? There’s an online poll that asks readers if they would pay for the Berkeley Daily Planet, which like we’ve pointed out before is neither daily nor covers the planet.

Readers can donate to the fund either by mail or through the www.berkeleydailyplanet.com. We’ll be waiting to see what happens with this innovative yet risky business model.

The Planet isn’t the first news source to ask readers to pay directly for newsgathering. A Web site called Spot.Us was launched last year. Spot.Us is a nonprofit project of the Center for Media Change that asks people to donate money to get a certain story published. Freelance journalists are hired to write the stories once a set amount is raised.

In a story today, Becky O’Malley said that when they took over, they had “some hope that we would at least break even, but the reverse has happened.”

“Not that advertising revenues have entirely gone away,” said Michael O’Malley, the paper’s publisher. But advertising doesn’t cover the paper’s biggest expense, the salaries of the reporters who gather the news and the editors who shape the final product that appears each Thursday morning in news boxes and stores from Richmond to Alameda.”

The O’Malleys say they are trying to keep the paper afloat without cutting staff. More than 6,000 print journalists nationwide have lost their jobs over the past two years because of the economic downturn. The Bay Area News Group-East Bay, which runs the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times and nearly two dozen other daily and weekly newspapers in the Bay Area, has cut a substantial number of reporters, copy editors, editors and photographers over the last few years.

If the Berkeley Daily Planet closes, it wouldn’t be the first time. Once owned by publisher Arnold Lee, and Stanford MBA grads Dave Danforth and Ed Carse, it folded the first time in November 2002.

In today’s story, the O’Malleys say they haven’t set a deadline for a final decision on the newspaper’s fate. “But the costs have been high, and at some point, they say, they may have to devote the remainder of their resources to their children and grandchildren.”

I guess this means the Berkeley Daily Planet still won’t be daily or covering the planet.

Posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2009
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