Daily Archives: February 1, 2011


The Berkeley Wire: 02.01.11

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Homeless in Berkeley, one tweet at a time

Twitter novelist Doug Sovern
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“Sat on grass right under sign that says ‘no sitting on median’. No1 seems to care as long as u have asiago/roma/arugula slice in hand.”

Most Berkeleyans can probably pinpoint the reference in that Tweet to the median strip on Shattuck next to the Cheeseboard. What’s more surprising is those 134 characters are part of the Twitter era’s equivalent of an epistolary novel (think Samuel Richardson and Clarissa and Pamela), written by KCBS Radio journalist Doug Sovern. TweetHeart is written in the voice of Zoe, a young woman living rough on the streets of Berkeley.

Sovern decided to write a novel all in tweets after he crashed his bike on Grizzly Peak and was recovering with some broken ribs. There have been numerous other novels written on Twitter, but Sovern reckons his is the first to attempt a novel that consists entirely of tweets, just as Richardson wrote novels consisting entirely of letters in the 18th century). He started the novel on January 11 and plans to finish on November 11 (11/11/11). … Continue reading »

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Thousands of people in the Fourth Street shopping district are without power. The electricity failed around 11:30 am. and storekeepers have not gotten any indication when it will go back on.  Berkeleyside has a call into PG&E to see when power will resume.

UPDATE 1:23 pm: A PG&E repair crew is on the way to the source of the power failure, according to spoekswoman Nicole Leibelt. About 1,500 people in Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond have been without power since 11:47 am., she said.

UPDATE 1:58 pm Power has been restored to the bulk of the 1,500 customers who lost it, according to Leibelt. About 25 customers in El Cerrito are still without power. The cause of the outage has still not been determined.

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Where’s my DVD? The Strawberry Statement

Bruce Davidson and Bud Cort in The Strawberry Statement
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On May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen shot dead four students demonstrating against the Vietnam War at Ohio’s Kent State University. On June 15, 1970, The Strawberry Statement opened in New York City cinemas. Though loosely based on a book about a 1968 sit-in at Columbia University, the similarities between the events depicted in the film and the horrors of Kent State were unmistakable. Though it would go on to win the Jury Prize at Cannes that year, The Strawberry Statement was not received well by critics or audiences and has languished in obscurity ever since.

Clean-cut Simon (Bruce Davison, later Senator Kelly in the X-Men franchise) is a San Francisco college student more interested in rowing crew and maintaining a decent GPA at fictional Western University than in getting involved with his school’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. Though not a total square — his apartment is decorated with Che and Bobby posters, and he owns a copy of the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack — he regards activist students with detached bemusement. Simon would rather film a demonstration than pick up a picket sign and join in.

That all changes when his camera alights upon Linda (Kim Darby), a cute co-ed deeply engaged in left-wing politics (Linda: “I’m involved in women’s liberation.” Simon: “I’m in favor of that!”). When Simon finds out she’s participating in a President’s office sit-in protesting the conversion of a playground to an ROTC center, he suddenly develops a social conscience and comes along for the ride. Assigned by protest organizers to collect food, he and Linda visit a corner store operated by a friendly grocer (James Coco), who encourages them to take whatever they want as long as they pretend to rob him — thus allowing him to make an insurance claim.

Things darken considerably during a demonstration at the playground, now surrounded by chain-link. After knocking down the fence, exuberant protesters send one policeman headfirst down the slide, give another a vertigo-inducing ride on the teeter-totter, and suspend a third upside down on the jungle gym. Though the mood is playful, there’s more than a hint of genuine danger — especially when a Franciscan priest begins whacking cops with his protest sign. After getting arrested, Simon calls his parents from jail, informing them that he has “solved my identity crisis!” He’s crossed the Rubicon and become a full-fledged revolutionary — and as Linda informs him, “once you’re in, you’re IN”. … Continue reading »

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Arrival of Goodwill store on Solano prompts concerns

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Goodwill Industries is planning to open a 5,000 square foot store at the top of Solano Avenue and some area merchants are concerned it will drag down the shopping district’s image.

Goodwill is hoping to move into space formerly occupied by Front Row Video and The World of Dance studio, according to Allen Cain, the director of the Solano Avenue Association. Goodwill would knock out the wall between the spaces to create a large store that will sell used clothing, furniture, and home goods.

The new store would fill two of the 11 vacant storefronts on the two and a half block stretch of Solano that rests in Berkeley. Still, some merchants don’t think a Goodwill store is a good idea.

Carol Fabrietti, owner of Ideas 4 Elements, which has been on Solano Avenue for 22 years, says she does not want Goodwill opening on the avenue.

“We want to bring people back to Solano. But we want to attract upscale customers, and this isn’t the way to do it,” she said.

Alaina Palega, who moved her Solano Kids consignment store into the block near The Alameda just six months ago, is worried that drop-off donations will be unsightly and will mar the street’s image.

“It’s going to cause a lot of junk being left, dropped off in doorways,” said Palega. “It’s just not fitting with the street.”

Palega is also worried that a large Goodwill, which is a non-profit, will squeeze out local antique stores and used clothing stores like hers.

“It’s going to hurt a lot of small businesses that are here,” said Pelaga, who has set out a petition on her counter to protest the Goodwill store. “We have a lot of consignment stores and antique stores. It’s going to kill a lot of small guys. So you are going to trade four or five stores for one big store.”

Hannah Hernandez, who has owned and operated Hannah’s, a kid’s used clothing store for 16 years, is not worried. Goodwill generally just puts its donations on racks and customers have to paw through massive amounts of clothing to find good things. She offers a different experience to her customers.

“The service I provide is culling all the junk,” she said.

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