Month: October 2020

The Story of Plastic: The evolution of an eco pirate on capitalism’s amoral seas

  Activist and filmmaker Stiv Wilson isn’t fighting to end plastic pollution. He’s fighting to end a system dependent on plastic. Can decades of work and a noteworthy cache of film awards make a drop of difference in an ocean of disposable everything? A Ticket to the Show. If you’ve ever been to the sagging Skates on the Bay restaurant in Berkeley, you know it’s a writer’s dream of a watering hole: A classic cocktail joint (of types both liquid and crustacean) on the waterfront, where the prices are Chicago-steakhouse comical, the service is more nostalgic than competent and the hipsters are in mercifully short supply. A few pebble skips away is the Berkeley Yacht Club and its members-only honor bar, reliably populated with colorful old salts downing rum drinks long after the barkeep ...

On Her Way Sen. Kamala Harris: The Oakland in me

Kamala Harris’ selection as Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 presidential election made history as the first Black woman on a major ticket. It’s historic for the East Bay as well. Only one person born in California, Richard Nixon, ever served as president or vice president—and he was a Southern Californian. Her roots here run deep—as does the symbolism of Oakland as the most racially diverse city of its size or larger in the United States. The first sentence of her bestselling book, The Truths We Hold, mentions both Alameda County and Oakland. And her presidential campaign kicked off January 27, 2019 at Frank Ogawa Plaza.  In her autobiography, she describes preparing for a contentious 2012 phone call with JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. “I took off my earrings (the ...

What’s in a Name? Finding a constellation of Orions … and the truth

I have a weird name. It was weird by the standards of Sonoma County, where I grew up, and it’s weird by the considerably less conservative standards of Berkeley, where I live now. My name doesn’t match the assumptions people make about me based on my appearance, and nearly every time I need to tell someone my name, some version of this little skit plays out: Them: “What’s your  name?” Me: “Orion.” Them: “Are you Irish?” Me: “No. It’s a Greek name.” Them: “You’re Greek?” Me: “No, I’m Italian. And Swedish.” Them (confused): “Uh, OK … what’s your first name?” Me: “That is my first  name.” Them (getting visibly annoyed): “Uh … how do you spell it?” Me: “O-r-i-” Them (even more annoyed): “Wait, what?! ‘O-r-y’?” (this goes on for a bit…) Them (exasperated): “OK, what’s your last ...

Bette’s Oceanview Diner: Berkeley favorite keeps it coming

Manfred Kroening is the tall, silver-haired Austrian who regularly greets customers at the front door of Bette’s Oceanview Diner. He and his late wife Bette (along with Sue Conley who went on to co-found Cowgirl Creamery) opened the diner on Berkeley’s Fourth Street in 1982. Fourth Street in the early 1980s was an unlikely neighborhood to start a homey, welcoming place for brunch. The nearby warehouse tenants were glassblowers and metalworkers in what was then an industrial neighborhood.  Speaking by telephone Kroening recalled that, “Back then, to work on Fourth Street, it was a bad zone at that time. Roaming dogs and upside-down shopping carts.” He felt that they were really taking a chance starting a business there. But they all thought, “Let’s try to work together and make a livin...

Rock the Doc: Thinking music, watching film

With so many live music shows on hold since the shelter-in-place began, watching old videos, full-length musicals and documentaries is a great way to add diversity to my entertainment choices. That was especially true when Showtime broadcast the SIP premiere Go-Go’s documentary on July 31.  Beyond conjuring up magic memories from my younger years, getting inside the heads of the five female members of the Go-Gos band, sharing laughs and rocking out with millions of other music fans across the nation (virtually, of course); this energetic celluloid gem reminded me of other fantastic music documentaries I’ve watched in the past. Here is a short list of music documentaries to seek out via Netflix or other online media sources to enjoy during #SIP2020 or anytime. Athens, GA: Inside/Out (1...

Photography as Social Activism: OMCA reveals digital archive of Dorothea Lange’s photos

American photographer Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” is widely seen as a defining portrait of the Great Depression; the woman it depicts, and her children, are etched into our collective image of that challenging time in American history. But while that photo was shot not far from San Luis Obispo in Central California, Lange actually spent most of her career shooting in her own backyard: the East Bay. A longtime Berkeley resident, Lange captured the Great Depression, World War II and beyond in the Bay Area. And now, for the first time, her personal archive is available online, for free. The Oakland Museum of California, the keeper of Lange’s collection, has unveiled an online digital archive  with more than 600 of Lange’s photos, many of which have never been seen before. In the mi...

Marcus Books Reaches Milestone: The nation’s oldest independent Black bookstore celebrates its 60th anniversary amidst Black Lives Matter movement and global pandemic

Marcus Books, the oldest independent Black bookstore in the United States, turned 60 this year. Between global pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and the death of Marcus Books founder Dr. Raye Richardson at age 99, this has been a rollercoaster of a year for the Richardson family and their landmark shop and publishing press. Loud calls to support Black businesses have prompted increased attention on Marcus Books, a welcome shift at a time when Covid-19 has been decimating small businesses that rely on in-person interaction.  Covid-19 social distancing protocols meant that the store—which has hosted countless Black authors and icons, from Muhammad Ali to Toni Morrison—spent part of their milestone year unable to welcome customers into the shop. An online fundraiser started by loyal...

Comic Relief: Oakland’s ABO Comix publishes art by and for queer prisoners

“Every time I go to the post office, it’s almost like Christmas morning,” Casper Cendre tells me, describing a mountain of envelopes decorated with beautiful drawings sent to him from prisons all over the U.S.  Cendre is the director and co-founder of ABO Comix, a publisher and collective whose mission is to amplify the voices of LGBTQ prisoners through art. Since 2017, the Oakland-based group has collected and published comic art in anthologies that they distribute in and outside of prisons. Sales of these anthologies help to pay the contributors, who receive donations in their commissary funds. Copies of ABO’s books are distributed to prison libraries for free.  Now in their fourth year, Cendre and the four other volunteers who currently comprise ABO correspond with more than 2...

Check the Fridge: Oakland community tackles food insecurity with street corner fridges

As of early August, over 130,000 people in the Bay Area had lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus shutdown. We’ve all seen the shuttered restaurants, cafes and shops in our neighborhoods. The long term impacts of the pandemic are numerous, but unemployment has exacerbated one issue in particular: hunger. There were already 870,000 food-insecure people in the Bay Area before the Covid-19 crisis (more than the entire population of San Francisco), and need has only grown. As food banks and food-justice organizations work to meet increased need, some community members have taken it upon themselves to end food insecurity in their neighborhoods, one fridge at a time. Several groups, including a grassroots community organization and a grocery startup, have installed free fridges in the East Bay ...