Thursday, March 28, 2013

Is Darius Anderson Buying the Napa Valley Register?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 10:36 PM

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According to a post earlier today by the Sonoma Valley Sun, the "word on the street" is that Sonoma Media Investments will soon buy the Napa Valley Register.

The investment group—which already owns the Sonoma Index-Tribune, the Press Democrat, the North Bay Business Journal and the Petaluma Argus-Courier, along with the rest of the Press Democrat's magazine and online properties—is headed up by lobbyist and developer Darius Anderson, a man of increasing infamy around these parts.

Anderson, speaking at a CNPA convention in Sacramento earlier this year, emphasized his desire to own more newspapers (to wit: he wants to "rape and pillage" other media properties). The Napa Valley Register, located just over the hill from Anderson's home in Sonoma, makes for a convenient newspaper to rape.

It might also be an easy one: I called the Napa Valley Register repeatedly today for a confirmation or denial of the rumor, and for hours, there was no answer. How does a newsroom get tips without answering the phone? (Neither the Sonoma Valley Sun nor William Hooper, one of the main investors of Sonoma Media Investments, responded today to calls either.)

The Napa Valley Register predates the Civil War—it was founded in 1853. Now, 160 years later, the paper is published by Napa Valley Publishing, which also publishes a series of smaller newspapers throughout the Napa Valley: the St. Helena Star, the Weekly Calistogan, the American Canyon Eagle and Hispanos Unidos. (Presumably, those papers would be included in a sale of the Register.) Napa Valley Publishing is owned by Lee Enterprises, which is headquartered in Iowa.

Meanwhile, Darius Anderson has been in the pages of his own paper quite a bit this week.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Food Desert Ordinance Rescinded

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 2:05 PM

The special zoning amendments for small grocery stores in Santa Rosa's federally-designated Food Desert were rescinded at a City Council meeting last week. We've reported previously on the lawsuit filed by the Living Wage Coalition, which contended that this ordinance violated the general plan.

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The Living Wage Coalition told us that they would drop the lawsuit if the ordinance was repealed.

The lawsuit was a response to Walmart's national trend of opening "small marts" or smaller, neighborhood grocery stores, in areas that are underserved by vendors of fresh fruits and vegetables.

According to newspaper coverage, councilman Gary Wysocky, who did not vote for the zoning amendment, criticized it again when it was rescinded, pointing out that the data was old. He had previously brought up that other grocery stores have entered the supposed desert since the 2001 statistics that were used in determining its status.

Still, residents of the wide swath of Southeast Santa Rosa along Santa Rosa Avenue face difficulties in procuring food despite the grocery additions. Last summer, we went to the food desert and checked it out.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Three Horrible Things That Happen When You Google "Twilight Fan Fiction"

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Dearest Bohemian reader: Perhaps you, too, were bumming around the blogosphere this morning and saw that another work of Twilight fan fiction got a book deal.

Another work of Twilight fan fic will get published.
  • Another work of Twilight fan fic will get published.

If you're like me, you feel outraged at first. You think: Isn't Twilight strange and disturbing enough? Isn't it already shameful that a work of fan fiction then became a wildly popular three-part series? Do we really need a third set of tomes inspired by the already-flat characters of a sparkly deer-eater, a sometimes-wolf with rapist tendencies and a teenage girl who could really benefit from some kind of extra-curricular activity?

But then, if you're like me, you admit that you're strangely compelled by the whole notion of fan-ficiton. You overhear 16-year-old boys talking about their Game of Thrones fan fiction in coffee shops (but they're mostly writing about Cersei so you don't really want to know). You once wrote an article about Gone with the Wind fan fiction, for which you spent three months listening to Gone with the Wind fan fiction, which is so full of bizarre plot twists and decadent clothing that you felt bored and empty when you were done. You remember this term from college, "intertextuality," which is basically a smart way of saying that everyone writing literature is ripping someone off.

So you take to the Internet and Google "Twilight fan fiction," to see what horrible and fascinating things emerge.

First, you find that there are several professional-looking forums, in which hopeful writers of Twilight fan fic post their plot ideas. They list the number of chapters, the language, the genre. They include summaries—everything from future snapshots of the Cullen clan to this one, which is kind of awesome: "Falling asleep on a bus and missing his stop, a man ends up in Forks for the weekend...poor guy."

Then, you find that Googling "Twilight fan fic" brings up a number of Tumblr pages. Apparently, if you're wanting to write Twilight fan fic and can't find the words to express the wonder and longing inspired by the original series, you can use pictures! But, wait, never mind. Don't click on those links! While there are some lovely watercolors of wolves (which would look right at home on a tie-dye shirt), there are also some photoshopped images of Edward in pants that zip...oh my goodness. You can't un-see that.

Finally, in a moment of soul-crushing despair, you'll realize that the worst has already happened. Frankenstein's monster has birthed a child, who has, in turn, birthed a child. Or, to be more Twilight-appropriate, that half-human, half-vampire child from the series that started it all has found a half-human, half-vampire mate, and their sparkly progeny is destined to outlast us all.

Twilight fan-fiction has inspired fan-fiction.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Watch the New York Times Talk About That "Stack of Free Newspapers" Called Alt-weeklies

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 4:12 PM

Spurred by the sad death of the Boston Phoenix, the New York Times posted a video today of A.O. Scott talking to David Carr about those strange, supposed fossils called alt-weeklies. It takes a certain suspension of disbelief to watch two critics from a daily newspaper talk about how alt-weeklies are becoming outdated because they've been replaced by the Internet, but whatever. David Carr worked for Washington City Paper and thinks The Stranger is awesome, so we humored their New York Times-ness and watched it anyway.

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What this video does—really what all the post-Phoenix coverage has done—is try to define exactly what alt-weeklies do, what purpose they serve, what void would be left if they all went away. The two go through it point-by-point. For those under 30, they say, alt-weeklies are those papers you can get for free. They have (or once had) epic journalism, that you couldn't find anywhere else (which is pretty cool to hear on the Times' site). They're insanely local—almost tribal. They're crusaders. They're cheap, smeary newsprint with pictures of naked people in the back and hard-hitting, investigative reporting up front.

It's a decent summation, but let's take it a step further. After all, we at the Bohemian know what alt-weeklies are, because we work for one. We know that our staff IS bizarrely passionate about local arts and politics, to the point that we wonder why the rest of the world doesn't laugh at our incisive jokes about Assemblyman Jared Huffman's guitar. We can recite City Council quotes off-hand. We know that there's always at least one copy editor (only one, in our case) who dislikes social media and harbors some weird theories about the 30-year-old office robot's sex life. Also, we have a 30-year-old office robot. (Contrary to what our copy editor says, he doesn't have a sex life.) We've all, at one point or another, published pictures of our dogs. We love newspapers, and movies about newspapers, and books about newspapers with a fanatic, spiritual love, and sometimes, if we've had a strong beer, the mere thought of newspapers can make us cry.

>Anyway, you can watch the video here. Be careful. It might start making you feel nostalgic for something that still isn't gone.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Affordable Housing Forum Fizzles in Marin

Heated atmosphere, few solutions at Citizen Marin's town-hall meeting

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Steve Burdo shares his concerns with Silvestri's arguments at Citizen Marin's forum on March 20, 2013. - KELLY O'MARA
  • Kelly O'Mara
  • Steve Burdo shares his concerns with Silvestri's arguments at Citizen Marin's forum on March 20, 2013.

The 100 people protesting on Wednesday night outside the Pickleweed Community Center—and the three cops patrolling the parking lot, with four more officers inside the meeting room—appeared prepared for a fight Wednesday night at Citizen Marin’s first-ever town hall meeting on Bay Area planning and affordable housing.

Instead, they got a nearly hour-long presentation from real estate financier, media activist and community organizer Bob Silvestri on the history of regional planning and housing development.

The Canal Alliance and Marin’s Action Coalition for Equity held up signs saying “I Just Look Illegal” and “End Apartheid in Marin,” protesting the neighborhood groups that have worked to stop affordable housing projects. Groups like Friends of Mill Valley and the Novato Community Alliance, both part of Citizen Marin, have come out against low-income developments in the past, citing concerns about high density. While many in the organizations have said they don’t associate with the extreme right, their rhetoric has often become nasty, and has divided communities.

But Silvestri, who called his politics “far to the left of President Obama,” gave a speech arguing that the “top-down, one-size-fits-all planning” of the One Bay Area Plan, which allocates housing requirements, isn’t going to solve Marin’s problems. Instead, he argued—to increasing applause and heckles from the audience as the night went on—that what Marin needs is senior housing, infill housing, second units and the ability for young, working-class families to buy into the community.

Worse, he said, forcing large developments into Marin would ruin small-town communities and do nothing but put money in the pockets of developers.

“We already have everything they’re trying to sell,” he said.

A woman protests outside the forum with the Canal Alliance. - KELLY O'MARA
  • Kelly O'Mara
  • A woman protests outside the forum with the Canal Alliance.

Instead of building more high-density, low-income projects next to freeways, he argued, the minimum wage should be raised, healthcare should be provided for free, and ground-up community priorities should be created for Marin’s towns. He posited further that Marin should opt out of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and create, with Napa and Sonoma, its own council of governments—an idea supported by Corte Madera’s withdrawal from ABAG last year.

While some in the audience cheered at the ideas, others Silvestri’s speech as nothing but a smokescreen.

“A lot of what you said makes sense, but a lot of your solutions are way down the road,” said Steve Bingham, of San Rafael.

As the night went on, the town hall forum became a public space for people to decry mortgage payments, question the existence of global warming, and yell at Silvestri that some of his proposals sounded like communist socialism. Toni Shroyer and Susan Kirsh, supporters of the anti-ABAG movement and moderators of the forum, battled with speakers for control of the microphone and encouraged hostile forum-goers to wrap it up.

But, while there was talk of lawsuits to fight ABAG and more forums in the future to discuss alternatives, many who came hoping to learn about affordable housing options felt discouraged. Few solutions or changes were tangible—and that wasn’t good enough, said a number of activists.

“Business as usual,” said Kiki LaPorte of Sustainable Fairfax, “is how we got to where we are now.”

Nearly 300 people filled the room. - KELLY O'MARA
  • Kelly O'Mara
  • Nearly 300 people filled the room.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpect(ly terrible) Journey

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Just say no to the one ring
  • Just say no to the one ring
The night began ominously. We were finally seeing the Hobbit in its last-chance big screen showing, at the cheap-o discount theater in Santa Rosa. Just $4.50, what a bargain! “Two for Lord of the Rings,” I say, promptly corrected by the young woman printing the tickets.
“You mean the Hobbit, right?”
“Yeah, that’s it. I was close.”
She replies with an eyebrow raise without making eye contact, “It doesn’t even compare.”
“Oh, like it’s better?”
“No, worse,” she says with a smile.
“Seriously?”
“Yeah.” She looks up. “It’s terrible. Enjoy your movie.” With that, she handed us the tickets and we momentarily considered seeing what else was playing before heading into our theater. We should have considered it more seriously.

I know this is now old news, but the movie really was terrible. I like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I like fantasy fiction. This movie took the shortest book of the series, chopped it into three movies, and added too many special effects to keep track of. It was too much for the editors, apparently, because there were unfinished portions in battle scenes. Repeated motions of computer-generated creatures were obvious and at times a sword would appear to go directly through an enemy with no reaction, like someone forgot to animate that part.

To boot, the movie was almost three hours long and there were several unnecessary musical numbers. Musical numbers! In a Tolkein film! Dwarves were cleaning up a hobbit’s house by tossing around the plates and singing. What is this, Sword in the Stone? And the physics of the battle scenes were too outrageous to ignore. A 50-pound log used as a shield repeatedly stops a giant, sharp sword swung by a giant beast? It was annoyingly impossible.

So the movie sucked, and so did one of the people in our row, we suspect. After discussing the possible sexual behavior that could be accomplished in the theater, a couple two seats over from us pulled the ol’ jacket-over-the-lap routine. I’m no prude, but this wasn’t in the back row or anything. It was loud and the film’s volume was too quiet, so everyone could hear the “coming attractions” playing smack dab in the middle of the theater. It was so quiet that when the daring duo was finished I could hear the guy next to me biting his nails—or, nubs of nails, rather—loudly and repeatedly starting and stopping, making it impossible to tune out. The guy in front of us dropped a large bottle—it sounded like a wine bottle—several times. Dude, put it in a padded bag or just leave it on the ground.

We finished the movie, astonished at our accomplishment. Both of us, it turns out, had wanted secretly for the other to lean in and whisper, “Let’s go get fro-yo.” But whether pride or just bad timing, neither caught on. By the time the marathon of unnecessary soliloquies was over, fro-yo was closed and we were annoyed. Moral of the story? Listen to your ticket booth attendant. She knows her stuff.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Extended Play: Grocery Squeeze

Posted By on Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 1:14 PM

This week's news story delves into a local lawsuit concerning Sonoma County's "food desert," a federally-designated swath of southeast Santa Rosa with little access to grocery stores. The Living Wage Coalition filed the lawsuit, fearing that Walmart would use the relaxed zoning measures that came along with it to open a small grocery store in the area.

The new Smart & Final will have benefitted from relaxed zoning measures associated with Santa Rosas food desert.
  • The new Smart & Final will have benefitted from relaxed zoning measures associated with Santa Rosa's food desert.

While our story is mostly about this local issue, the trend of Walmarts opening in food deserts is nationwide. The question, of course, is whether low-paying jobs and mass-importation of produce and other groceries is actually harmful to low-income areas long-term.
There have been some other, excellent articles written on this topic. Here's some further reading:

Mother Jones: Is Walmart the Answer to Food Deserts?

Grist.org: Eaters Beware: Walmart is Taking Over Our Food System

The Nation: Walmart's Fresh Food Makeover

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Attend ABAG's Workshops on Smart Growth

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 11:06 PM

We've reported extensively on ABAG and the myriad problems facing smart growth and housing elements in the North Bay. With Napa and Marin's high in-commuting numbers, carbon emissions from the cars entering these wealthy counties continue to be a major problem.

The One Bay Area Plan matches transit and housing dollars
  • The One Bay Area Plan matches transit and housing dollars

KBBF hosted a focus group on Tuesday night that the Bohemian participated on these issues of housing and transportation. It was led by MTC (Metropolitan Transit Commission) and ABAG (The Association of Bay Area Governments) and featured topics related to the two's One Bay Area plan, which matches transportation dollars with areas poised for infill development and other features of non-sprawl growth.
This was the first in a series of workshops on Sonoma County's growth patterns. If you want to see bike lanes and ramps constructed instead of widened freeways and housing built close to city centers instead of the far reaches of the county, you should go to these meetings and make your voice heard.
A schedule of upcoming north bay meetings can be seen here.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Schroeder Hall Gets $1 Million Boost—Maybe

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 3:15 PM

The inside of Schroeder Hall.
  • The inside of Schroeder Hall.

Fundraising for the unfinished student portion of the $150 million Green Music Center at Sonoma State University is getting a kickstart, thanks to a $1 million pledge by Sandy and Joan Weill.

The Weills, who donated $12 million toward the completion of the main hall now named in their honor, will give $1 million toward the completion of the 250-seat Schroeder Hall. This donation is dependent upon the university securing $2 million in donations by Sept. 1, 2013. Donations must be at least $100,000 to qualify toward the million-dollar match.

University officials had long declared that $5 million was needed to finish the hall, which will be used for student and smaller choral performances. Now, apparently, that number is down to $3 million. (In related news, the center's outdoor pavilion, which once needed more than the $15 million MasterCard donated for naming rights, has also been scaled back in scope and will be seeking no further funding.)

Schroeder Hall will be a student recital hall following the original idea by Don Green, for whom the center was named, after he and his wife Maureen donated the first $10 million to the Green Music Center project.

The hall was named by Jean Schulz in recognition of the Beethoven-loving pianist in her late husband Charles’ comic strip, Peanuts. (She donated $5 million toward the completion of the project.) The exterior has been finished since 2008, but the inside remains seatless and barren. A 1,248-pipe Brombaugh Opus 9 pipe organ, currently housed in Rochester, NY, will be installed permanently upon completion. The music department hopes to hold many of its 70 annual concerts in Schroeder Hall.

Before Yo-Yo Ma's concert in January at the Green Music Center, the university held a cocktail reception inside Schroeder Hall for large donors. A projection of the artist’s rendering of the completed hall was cast above the stage, and complimentary cocktails and smoked salmon puffs were distributed in hopes of massaging the pocketbooks of the North Bay’s most affluent music lovers. Weill himself solicited donations to complete Schroeder Hall before a group of VIP attendees at a gala dinner after the concert.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Premiere Night: 'Oz the Great and Powerful'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 4:48 PM

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'Oz the Great and Powerful' has built quite the big hype. For the past month, movie trailers have been playing nonstop on Hulu, and ads for the movie have been everywhere. The movie is a prequel of sorts to The Wizard of Oz—helllooooo, Wicked—and it gives Oz fans the chance to see the imagined back story of their favorite characters, before Dorothy’s visit to the yellow brick road.

The film stars James Franco as the heartbreaker circus magician with a hidden agenda, and follows his journey into the Land of Oz. In this movie's telling, prophecy has arrived to the citizens of Oz that a great wizard bearing their land's name will come restore peace. This wizard is meant to live a luxurious life in the great emerald palace—and of course, this sounds like a dream come true for a slightly selfish magician with nothing to lose.

Mila Kunis steals the show in the role of Theodora, who later becomes the wicked witch of the west. Kunis starts off as a good witch, the sister to the evil witch Evanora, who loves to leave large paths of destruction. Theodora is a kind woman who wants nothing more than to restore peace to the land. She's the first person Oz meets on his journey, and falls for him instantly.

When push comes to shove, will Oz be the Wizard this magical land needs? What made the good witch go bad? Not that I can give away those sorts of spoilers, but I can answer one question: does this film live up to the buzz? Yes.

One other thing: the 3D experience is recommended for Oz fanatics who want to get up close with the colorful scenery.

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