Daily Archives: January 14, 2011


The Berkeley Wire: 01.14.11

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Special council session to consider employee benefits

City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan
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The City of Berkeley’s unfunded liability for employee pension benefits will be the focus of a special City Council work session at 5:30 p.m. before the regular council meeting next Tuesday.

In an email about the session, City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan wrote, “The City Council, City Manager, and City employees will have to take some very difficult actions. The decision makers and the community need rigorous analysis, clear communication, and realistic expectations. A commitment to collaboration can help us through these difficult … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Rep’s Taccone: “three shows from the abyss”

Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone
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Tony Taccone, artistic director of the Berkeley Repertory Theater, had a particularly engaging and revealing interview with KQED’s Dave Iverson on this morning’s Forum program.

Under Taccone the Rep has established a strong record of originating works that go on to great acclaim in New York, including the current double-Tony winner American Idiot. In the interview, Taccone spoke frankly about the Rep’s constant struggle to focus on its local audiences rather than the lure of New … Continue reading »

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Inside Memorial Stadium’s quake retrofit

Julian Smith delves inside some of the engineering of Memorial Stadium’s quake retrofit in the current issue of Wired. The video above explains two of the more clever aspects of the retrofit: the two free-floating surface rupture blocks and the support walls and shock absorbers for the press box.

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Berkeley school officials say gun incident handled properly

Berkeley High School. Photo: Charlotte Wayne
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Despite the concern of some parents that Berkeley school officials let the 15-year old who brought a gun to Berkeley High flee before he could be detained by police, that was the best way to handle the situation, according to Superintendent Bill Huyett.

School security officers don’t have the authority to physically detain kids, tackle them, or lock them in a room, he said. The only time they intervene physically is when there is a fight going on, he said.

“We are not law enforcement agents, so we don’t lock kids in rooms, ever,” Huyett said on Friday. “The thing that is most important is to ensure safety for all students. We do secure the suspected contraband. I’ve had kids flee on me [when he was a principal] and my advice is to not physically intervene with them.  I’ve always said, ‘Don’t give chase. Don’t physically entail. Turn it over to police.’”

The student was still at large Thursday evening, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley police department.

On Monday, the 15-year old freshman allegedly brought a gun to school in his backpack. School started at 10 am, and by 11 am school officials had heard from multiple sources that the student had gotten a gun.

While safety officials were looking inside the backpack, the student fled. By the time Berkeley police arrived, the student was no longer on school premises. … Continue reading »

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Mike Daisey recounts our obsession with cash

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At the end of Mike Daisey’s solo show “The Last Cargo Cult,” now playing at Berkeley Rep, all I could do was sit back and gape.

For more than two hours I had watched Daisey shout, scream, murmur, and sweat as he spun a tale about the mysteries of a South Pacific island and the mysterious devotion Westerners have to cash. With little more than a few sheets of notes, a glass of water, a table, a handkerchief to wipe off his brow, and a backdrop of dozens of cardboard boxes featuring every conceivable type of consumer product, Daisey had managed to keep the audience captivated.

Starting with the chilling tale of how he almost died in a island puddle-hopper, and continuing through with stories of his (almost) middle class childhood in Maine, his rude awakening as a freshmen in college that some of his classmates had a lot cooler gadgets than he would ever be able to afford, and on to tales of our obsession with objects, Daisey was a force-field, drawing the audience further and further into his orbit.

Granted, not all the stories he told were engrossing. I didn’t really care for his recounting of the nine-hour dance pageant performed in the honor of one John Frum on the island of Vanuatu.  And while he tries to make “The Last Cargo Cult,” a piece that calls into question the centrality of possessions and the willingness of Americans to bow to the mighty dollar, he doesn’t quite succeed. Yet I had a very good time going along for the ride.

(Warning: spoiler coming up)

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Alice Medrich’s sweet life

143_Bittersweet Decadence. deborah.jones
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Alice Medrich, the author, is best known for her high-end sweets cookbooks devoted to serious bakers and dessert makers, including the bestsellers Pure Dessert and Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. Alice Medrich, the dessert chef and chocolatier, is best known for her influential and ahead-of-its time shop Cocolat. Medrich ran the store, opened on Shattuck Avenue in 1976, for 14 years.

In both careers Medrich earned a reputation for meticulous recipe testing, a commitment to quality ingredients, and originality in her elaborate baked goods.

So some may be surprised to learn that her eighth cookbook is about, well, the humble cookie. Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies (Artisan Books, hardcover, $25.95) in fact. And, as is today’s norm for authors of new books, Medrich, 60, is even blogging about her latest work.

Medrich’s foray into food started in her early 20s with a hand-written recipe for the tiny cocoa-dusted chocolate truffles given to her by her Paris landlady in 1973. Truffles were virtually unheard of in America at the time.

She sold the pure bittersweet confections at the Pig-by-the-Tail Charcuterie (since replaced by The Cheese Board Collective, which has a memento to the shop’s past on display in the store). She also carried a sign and took orders for elaborate cakes and desserts that people could pick up at the end of the week. Sometimes, she says now, she needed all week to perfect the recipe. … Continue reading »

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Storied Pelican Building is considered for landmark status

Pelican Building
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The Pelican Building, situated on the UC Berkeley campus on Eshelman Road, was designed by architect Joseph Esherick, who taught at UC Berkeley for 40 years, designed Wurster Hall, co-founded Cal’s College of Environmental Design with William Wurster and Vernon DeMars, and was one of the founding designers of Sea Ranch on the Sonoma-Mendocino coast. But the design story of this pretty pavilion-style structure goes even deeper than that.

Venerable Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck originally received the commission to design the building. In his nineties at the time, he passed the task along to Esherick who expressed his gratitude by blending some signature Maybeck touches with his own, more modernist ideas, into its design. That is why the building might bring to mind one of Maybeck’s most well-known creations, Berkeley’s First Church of Christ Scientist — and why the Pelican Building has been described  as “a unique overlap of First and Third Bay Traditions”.

The client for the building is another big name in California history — Earle C. Anthony (1880-1961), whose wide range of interests included cars — he was California’s distributor of Packards and built three impressive showrooms, one of which, designed by Maybeck, still survives, on Van Ness in San Francisco — radio and television, journalism, song- and play-writing and promotion of the arts.

While an engineering student at UC Berkeley in 1903, Anthony founded the college humor magazine The California Pelican. More than 50 years later he would finance the creation of a building dedicated to the magazine — hence its name, and the pelican sculpture at its entrance. Today the building is known as Anthony Hall, or the Graduate Assembly.

Robert Johnson and Berkeley architect Gary Parsons have prepared the report supporting the application to Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. … Continue reading »

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