Letters for the Week of May 18

Readers sound off on the Bay Area jazz scene, guns at Berkeley High, and Art Murmur.

“Kind of Blue,” Feature, 5/4

Jazz Musicians and A’s Players

What a sad piece of truth in your article! With KCSM-FM on in the background as I read your piece, I couldn’t help but wonder if the sounds of jazz emanating from my radio was akin to a slow — albeit spirited — death march.

As informative as your piece was (e.g., BART’s limited hours and the aging jazz lovers), I couldn’t help but see the same parallels playing out with the Oakland A’s and the talent they keep losing to other baseball markets.

While there are some shining moments, I fear we are losing the fight to other genres of music. It’s a fight worth waging, nonetheless.

Finally, much praise to you for capturing the emotional highs and lows of the local jazz scene that I have been feeling for some time. Having been a fan of jazz since 1995, your article, without question, is the greatest piece of writing on the local jazz scene that I have read to date. I hope to read more of your work.

P.S. Two thumbs up to those who designed the cover page! It was the Miles Davis album theme that attracted me to your article.

Jeff Regan, Berkeley

Listen Up

Jazz isn’t played on the radio? That’s what Rachel Swan said in her interesting and thought-provoking article. I beg to differ. The Bay Area is fortunate to have one of the few remaining all-jazz stations in the country at 91.1 FM and KCSM.org. We are proud to be a part of the Bay Area’s jazz scene, and broadcasting our 24-a-day, non-commercial, all-jazz format on the web as well. Check us out and help us to continue our mission of keeping jazz alive and well, here and abroad, by supporting us during our spring membership drive at 1-800-527-6911 or KCSM.org.

Melanie Berzon

Program Director, KCSM Radio

Jazz Center for Whom?

Somehow, I don’t think much of the $60 million being spent on the SFJAZZ Center is going to end up supporting local jazz musicians. I have a feeling the lion’s share, if not all of it, will end up in the pockets of architects, construction workers, administrators, and jazz academics.

As a local jazz musician who’s made a living playing improvised music for thirty years and is barely scrimping by, it hurts to get a phone call asking for donations for a $60-million “jazz center.” What about spending that money on publicizing the venues that already exist and subsidizing the pay of the musicians who play at those venues? The local venues need help — not more competition from a subsidized institution of jazz academics which will hire more East Coast jazz groups to perform while the local jazz players can’t even afford to pay to hear them.

Matt Eakle, San Anselmo

Age Bias

Why is so much attention here on the high school contingent? Jazz is about life experience and soul expression and there are plenty of talented jazz musicians who never went to Berkeley High, who are a lot older, that are overlooked for these “hot new kids on the block.” I realize they may be the future of jazz, but one needs to look at motivation — is it the media attention spurring them on or the music?

Mary D’Orazi, Oakland

Where’s the Love?

I think that the Bay Area jazz scene is very much alive. The musicians are working very hard and creatively to keep playing the music they love. The biggest part is that you have support for the music that you love. There is a lot of great music being played to an empty audience. These same folks would pack out the house if a rap or R&B group came to a major club, but you could hear crickets chirp if it were a jazz act during the week. Jazz is our American art form. Let’s give it the love it deserves. Peace!

James Knox, Oakland

“Reacting to Guns at Berkeley High,” News, 5/4

Get ‘Em Young

As a graduate of Berkeley High in 1957, I am troubled by issues over weapons on campus. During my years weapons were nonexistent, even larger pocket knives.

The solution must start before these students even get to BHS. Through all lower school grades there must be conversations, counseling, information, and in-depth education about the harm (with no upside benefits) that weapons bring.

A system must be employed where previous offenders are screened and checked randomly on campus.

Violence begets violence.

Bob Kurtz, Berkeley

Powerless Victims

Comparing administrative processes in Richmond Unified to BUSD requires a hard look at some of central differences between the “Berkeley way” and school districts nationally. Berkeley’s superintendent and board claim they are prohibited from reporting on-campus robberies to police; this is a violation of state and federal laws that require violent crimes be referred to local law enforcement.

Wrap-around services start with early identification; if the school district is in the business of covering up crime there is little likelihood that prevention will be meaningful. Compare the high school incident data with the district expulsion data and the mandated state reporting data. The ad hoc safety committee is spending time listening to the district explanation of discrepancies rather than focusing on systemic data collection capable of targeting high-risk kids for early intervention purposes.

The Berkeley school district is in the business of protecting offenders from accountability, thus it encourages the silly excuses of student leadership rather than encourage a cultural shift in attitude and behavior.

Victims of school crime have no rights, and are made invisible, because those in power continue the lie that the offenders are the only “real” victims, claiming juvenile offenders are victims of society failures, not the parent gap.

The bullies and the bullied are grist for the mill as Berkeley’s bystanders pay the bill.

Laura Menard, Berkeley

Trouble-Makers Aren’t Victims

Yet another article that doesn’t question how the rights of all the other students are being overlooked as we continue to label the trouble-makers as victims and those in need of our security. As has been the case for many years, the problem gets circumvented from how to make the campus secure to what we should do to protect the youth who are making the campus unsafe. Tautological thought process at its finest. Berkeley needs to stop telling the lie and take responsibility for all students and, as Laura Menard says, if they won’t report problems, or if they underreport problems, how are they going to go in and identify the problems early in students’ school careers in order to help them?

Heather Wood, Berkeley

I’m Becoming Republican

I’m a stay-at-home mom to a Berkeley High freshman, a preschooler, and a newborn, and I already volunteer on campus. We moved to Berkeley, bought a home, and decided to raise our children here because of Berkeley’s idealism. However, when the rubber hits the road, this idealism is putting my child (who attends Berkeley High) in danger. In addition, my experiences interacting with Berkeley’s elected officials — around this and other issues — have been pretty disappointing. Honestly, I have found our elected representatives to be aloof and dismissive. I never thought — as a blue dog Democrat — that I would identify with the big-government bashers on the far right. However, the more I interact with the career politicians in Berkeley, who believe they know what’s best and ignore their constituents, the more I feel myself moving to the right — and wishing that I wasn’t bankrolling their lackluster efforts with the ginormous property tax bill I dutifully pay twice a year.

Erika Kemp Smith, Berkeley

We Need Adult Eyes

Fear and stress are antithetical to learning. Thus the provision of a safe and secure campus atmosphere is mandatory for a suitable educational climate. Laura Menard lists the need to “encourage a cultural shift in attitude and behavior.” Unfortunately, cultural adjustment and attitude change are not trait developments that occur overnight. And while professionals theorize the physical, social, and mental minefield to be negotiated, school administrators are immediately responsible for ensuring a climate conducive to learning. In the interim, I suggest a remedy that might achieve multiple and positive goals, and at costs well below the $250,000 projections in Ms. Scherr’s article. The district could consider generous hiring of parents (and caring adults) in part-time assignments as hall monitors, yard roamers, and as watch-outs along adjacent streets. The omnipresence of many watchful adults could do much to provide a sociable atmosphere that over time could help in ushering the cultural and behavioral adjustments so necessary to realizing the student’s desire for a true and functioning open campus.

James Vann, Oakland

“Shouts and Murmurs,” Culture Spy, 5/4

Cool People Have Babies

I agree that the Murmur has been a great thing for art, artists, and Oakland. It brings tons of people to the area and supports restaurants, stores, as well as galleries. People who are complaining about it sound like a bunch of kids complaining that it’s not just them and their friends. Cool people sometimes put their kids in strollers, y’know.

Joan Weiss, Oakland

RPS Loses Respect

I went to Art Murmur for the first time in four years yesterday. I was really impressed that it had become something so diverse and inclusive, and the idea that “people who are interested in anything substantial, they’re not going to feel comfortable in that atmosphere” is the snottiest thing I’ve heard in a while. The idea that this had become too “white and hipsterish,” and that it should be replaced with a bike-themed event designed for people who will spend serious money, reads like an over-thought bad joke. The last time I had gone to Art Murmur, it was a bunch of white college kids, and what I saw last night was representative of Oakland. Rock Paper Scissors loses all of my respect here. They should be ashamed.

Chris Coad, Oakland

“Obama Gets Bin Laden and Trump,” Seven Days, 5/4

Obama’s Sins

It was no surprise to see the Express join the knee-jerk chorus of titterers who had to keep from wetting themselves when stand-up comic Barack Obama compared his work to the TV performance of Donald Trump, and “the kind of decisions that keep [him] up at night.”

In the interest of deep journalism, it would be worth reporting that President Obama has not been kept awake by his decisions to:

Forbid thirteen countries from coming in to clean the poisonous goo from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill;

Travel to Copenhagen to try to get the Olympics held on real estate owned by his crony, Valerie Jarrett;

Stick taxpayers with an $11 billion tab for his unconstitutional takeover of General Motors;

Violate the Constitution by anointing “czars” to usurp the powers of Congress;Add $2.65 trillion to our national debt;

Issue an executive order compelling would-be contractors to disclose their political contributions, flouting the spirit if not the letter of the US Supreme Court ruling, in NAACP v. Alabama, that forbade governments from requiring the disclosure of contributors to a political cause.

Given the condition of left-wing media, it doesn’t seem there’s a lot of staying awake going on.

David Altschul, Berkeley 

Bin Laden Dead for Years

The “Obama got Osama” road show is as authentic as Obama’s birth certificate.

Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and consultant for the Department of Defense, told the Alex Jones Show on May 3 that Osama bin Laden died in 2001, and that he was prepared to testify in front of a grand jury how a top general told him directly that 9/11 was a false flag inside job.

Also, back in April 2002, over nine years ago, Pieczenik told the Alex Jones Show that bin Laden had already been “dead for months,” and that the government was waiting for the most politically expedient time to roll out his corpse.

See: http://www.prisonplanet.com/top-us-government-insider-bin-laden-died-in-2001-911-a-false-flag.html

Russell Stepanchak, Columbia, Penn.

“Lost Highway,” Movies, 5/4

Grateful Words

Thank you for taking the time to review our documentary, These Amazing Shadows. We appreciate your well-written and fair review. Really like your turn of phrase, “[These Amazing Shadows] has more on its mind than just showing off the riches of America’s cinematic heritage.”

Kurt Norton

Gravitas Docufilms

Oakland

Lame Ending

Well, I saw [Meek’s Cutoff] at Sundance this year. Particularly based on the non-ending, I walked out and declared, “So Sundance.” At first, the trek seemed almost fake because it was very personal and this-close. However, as the trek continues, the daily grind starts to envelope you in the experience. Months later, I still wish for a real ending, which might appeal to a few more movie-goers … no?

Debby Richman, Midway, Utah

“Two Openings and a Re-Opening,” Kitchen Sink, 5/4

Close Sweet Jimmie’s

Sweet Jimmie’s has been closed at least twice for exactly this type of incident. How do they keep getting re-permitted? They always argue that the incident happens outside, so of course it’s not their fault. I say if you cater to thugs, shit will happen. They should be closed permanently and the enabler-cretin in the city administrator job should be removed from such a sensitive position. We need to be helping clean up the situation, not creating more work for the cops, more bad image for our city, and the senseless deaths of more and more and more young people.

Jerry West, Oakland

Luvplanet, Local Licks, 4/13

More Luv for Luvplanet

Luvplanet is one of the most original, talented, and (as you so perfectly illustrated in your review) underrated bands playing in the Bay Area today. They are the true heirs to the lost thread of San Francisco sound pioneered by Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead and later evolved by local bands like (shriek!) Journey (and, like the Dead, their studio recordings do not provide a complete picture of the magic woven in the segue jams that spontaneously occur between songs). Luvplanet integrates diverse influences from the 1960s onward into something new with a positive vibe and must-be-seen-live-to-be-fully-appreciated energy. Based on your assessment of the lyrics and the riffs, I can’t believe that you actually listened to the CD all the way through. Re: banishing Nicole to the folk realm, do you have a problem with strong women who rock? Because that is exactly what Nicole does on stage without a twang in sight (see “Virtual Life” from their last SF show at The Showroom — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBby50mNKF8). Thanks for reviewing Luvplanet but please check them out live or give the CD another spin.

Kevin McGee, Pacifica

“The Slow Death of Mushrooms,” Eco Watch, 4/27

Salt the Pigs

Not that this aids the oaks, but maybe the wild pigs that are so destructive should be hunted, salted, hung, and then sold as California’s answer to jamon iberico. It’s free-range, fed on chanterelles (instead of acorns, but I’m sure it imparts a characteristic flavor), and could be a contender in the fine foods market.

Beatriz Ulrich, Redwood City

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