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a certain suspension of disbelief to watch two critics from a daily newspaper talk about how alt-weeklies are becoming outdated because they've been replaced by the Internet, but whatever.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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
'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.
If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is around, does Bigfoot hear it? If that tree is in the Mayacama Mountain Area of Santa Rosa, the answer might be yes.
We get a lot of press releases at the Bohemian, but when the email subject reads “Bigfoot in Santa Rosa?” it’s gonna get opened. And when as much work is put into it as the one we received yesterday, it’s gonna get read. And when there are blurry photos of what might be the elusive, mythical Sasquatch, you bet your ass I’m gonna post that online like it’s a cat playing piano with sunglasses.
As the story goes, a Windsor man walking his dog shot the grainy, shaky footage and stabilized the best shot he had. If you squint really hard, and forget that this is in a forest, and don’t realize that these guys sell Bigfoot hunting trips, it looks like it might be a thing. Not necessarily Bigfoot, but definitely a thing. And hey, Bigfoot is a thing, so the search is on!
The man contacted Tom Biscardi, a renowned Bigfoot hunter in Redwood City. After carefully reviewing the footage, and enhancing it through several filters, it was determined that this could be worthy of more investigation. Though the team is still trying to get permission to cascade upon the mountain, the Bohemian was invited to send someone on the news staff to tag along on the hunt. (We're just trying to find an issue with an open spot for a cover story, honest.)
This isn’t the first time Tom has reportedly been involved in a Santa Rosa Bigfoot sighting. Though his name was not used, it’s been reported he responded to a fake video made by Penn and Teller for their show, “Bullshit.” Biscardi also admitted to being hoaxed himself on the nationally-syndicated paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM, which prompted the host to demand a refund to anyone who signed up for his live-cam Bigfoot watch after it was promised there would be Bigfoot, no matter how hard one watched.
I’m not in the Bigfoot biz, but I’m sure things like that happen all the time. There's no shame in getting fooled once, or twice, or a few times. Hey, everyone’s gotta make a buck somehow (one offer came to Penn and Teller for $5,000 just to use their fake Bigfoot footage). It can be tough to find the real thing, and you’ve gotta strike while the iron is hot. There’s no time to check the facts or ask the experts. Bigfoot is quick and elusive, and he might turn up one day at Matanzas Creek Winery sipping chardonnay and the next day having a picnic on a dormant volcano in Atlanta. It’s the luck of the draw. Just make sure to carry your worst video camera around at all times.
Jamie DeWolf is one of the most interesting people I've had the privilege to chat with. I barely got in any questions because it was so much better to listen to him speak than try to focus his energy. I rarely enjoy Q&A style articles, but even re-reading this one was enthralling. Enjoy.
Bohemian: How vocal are you now about Scientology?
Jamie DeWolf: I've always been willing to speak out against them. It's just that, well, one, they're just monstrous. It's like going against the mafia singlehandedly. I mean, when I first spoke against them publicly was in '99-2000. I performed a piece that I wrote that was super long, this crazy long thing that was like 15 minutes long. I was just trying to fit everything that I knew about the church and the cult into one piece and the history of my great-grandfather and my grandfather as well. I just tried to smash everything into it. Because at that point in particular not a lot of people knew about the inner workings of the cult, a lot of its notoriety and its actual internal beliefs.
A friend of mine put it online. I read it to about 50 to 75 people here in this cafe, I'd actually read it at a very early version of my show Tourettes without Regrets, and he recorded it and put it on mp3.com and immediately within a week Scientologists were after me. They were literally running me down. I had private investigators following me. They showed up at my house, they tracked down my address, they came up from San Francisco, they had this whole cover story that they were promotors putting on a show with me, that was like their running lie to anybody that they met to try and find out where I was. Then they ended up confronting my mom on the porch and she recognized them immediately just by their general demeanor and how they were asking questions about me and tried to identify who they were. She ended up kicking them off the porch.
I definitely felt hunted. Shortly thereafter, I think it might have even been the next two days, I got this anonymous phone call by this guy who only went by the alias of “Mr. Scary” and he was inviting me to come and host this anti-Scientology benefit concert in Clearwater, Florida, which is kind of their Mecca, it's like one of their strongholds—that and Los Angeles. When I flew out there I really saw the scope of the cult, a city they had completely devoured. They had their own bus lines, they had hundreds of security cameras downtown. And to meet people whose entire lives had been completely consumed by this cult, they'd been in the cult for 20 some years and it had destroyed their family or destroyed them and they just wanted to educate the world about how dangerous and criminal they were.
I met a guy who spent millions of dollars battling the church in every court, they fought him with every atom of their being and kind of eventually destroyed this guy. I just saw the sheer totality of how many lives had been utterly wrecked by this insane tentacled creature that my great grandfather created and I realized, Man, there's a lot more that I want to do with my life right now. I was like, This is some quicksand. I certainly would talk about it any time that anybody brought it up or asked me. I was more than up front about it and very direct, but I certainly didn't want it to affect my performances or shows or films or anything else that I wanted to do.
It was only in the last year when Snap Judgement asked me to do a story on families, they had this theme show that was basically stories about family tales. And I said, kind of half-jokingly, that the only thing I'd be interested in writing about would be the Scientology thing and they're like, Oh my god, you've got to do that. Please, please you've got to do that. He actually grew up in a cult himself, it was a Christian sect, nothing about Scientology, and he had done performances about that on his own show. I was like, I don't know man, are you serious? Do you have any idea what a big thing that is? They could come after you, you could get sued. You are poking a dragon with a toothpick. That's not just like a story, that's a seismic shift.
At first I was actually going to just film the show, I was just going to be in it. I was organizing a camera crew to shoot it and all that. I was actually working on another piece and it wasn't working, so I just decided, as an exercise, OK, what if I just try to write on this. Because the subject was so massive, it was like, how do I even approach this as an artist? Do I talk about what they believe? Do I talk about who L. Ron says he was versus who he is? Do I talk about all the criminal shit that they've engineered against people? Do I talk about them coming after me? What do I do? And then I really just focused on the family aspect of it, maybe that's what helped crack it for me, just focusing on a relationship between a father and a son. I just really tried to keep it focused on that because when I talked to my mom about it, I was like, I'm thinking about writing this piece, what do you think? My family's always been incredibly weary of anything I've said against the cult, because they've been trying to escape this cult for their entire life and the last thing they want to see is another one of their family members whose one degree of removal has managed to not be directly conflicted—how do I say, they felt that it had done enough damage that they didn't want to have anything more to do with it.
My mom says that that church is nothing but toxic, its poison. She's like, “Scientology consumed my grandfather and my father,” and that's how she viewed it. There's something that really stuck with me in terms of really focusing on how this cult, Scientology, ultimately consumed L. Ron and his son. Both of their lives are completely destroyed in a way, and that's the legacy that they're both sort of stuck with. MY grandfather, L. Ron Hubbard Jr. was obviously stuck with his same name and had to live in his shadow and fought with him and went to war with him and was eventually destroyed by him.
As is unfortunately the case, the “G” of grapefruit in this headline was cleverly substituted for a slice of the fruit, which was woefully inadequate. What you see was actually printed and distributed in today’s edition of that paper. The story’s gone viral, but there has yet to be an official response from the paper. Maybe it will come in an editorial in the next issue.
I know newspapers aren’t perfect—I’ve made my share of egregious typos and headline mistakes—but never have I had an idea this asinine translate to a printed page, let alone an actual printed newspaper. Aspiring layout designers and copyeditors are welcome to apply in Mankato, they’re probably hiring.