Daily Archives: August 13, 2012


The Berkeley Wire: 08.13.12

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Berkeley Historical Plaques: Crowd-sourcing history

“S.P. Train, Shattuck Ave.,” postcard (ca.1909), Sarah Wikander collection.
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Finding out about Berkeley’s history just got a whole lot easier.

The organizations responsible for putting up green and white oval plaques on historical sites around the city have created a new website, but one with a twist.

In addition to short articles about the background of each of the 100 plaques around town, there is a section devoted to other historical and cultural markers that make Berkeley interesting. The “E-Plaque” section of the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project doesn’t just have descriptions of important and imposing buildings, but includes the zany and unusual things that make Berkeley unique. In short, the E-Plaques celebrate people and ideas, not necessarily just places.

There is an E-Plaque about the newt crossing in Tilden Park. There is an E-Plaque about the 1908 Morrell Airship collapse – the nation’s first major airship disaster, which happened in Berkeley. Other E-Plaques include histories of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, and Patty Hearst’s kidnapping from her Benvenue Avenue apartment. Coming attractions will include information about the summer Bill and Hilary Clinton stayed in Berkeley, the “Waving Man,” the singer Malvina Reynolds, Star Grocery, and more.

“All plaques, be they virtual or real, relate to place,” said Robert Kehlmann, artist, former chair of the Landmarks Commission and the chairman and founder of the Berkeley Historical Plaque Project. “Ultimately the idea is to get a portrait of Berkeley, written by Berkeley. Kind of a self-portrait.” … Continue reading »

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Roster of 2012 Berkeley candidates firms up

Acting City Clerk Mark Numainville reviews Mayor Tom Bates' papers for the mayoral race in City Hall on Thursday, Aug. 10. Nils Moe, one of the mayor's aides, is in the rear. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Incumbent Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates will face five challengers for his seat in November, while City Councilmember Darryl Moore will have two challengers and Max Anderson and Laurie Capitelli will each have one. City Councilmember Susan Wengraf will run unopposed.

Friday Aug. 10 at 5 pm was the deadline for candidates to turn in their paperwork to the City Clerk’s office in order to qualify for the November 6 ballot. The candidates in races for mayor, City Council, and Rent Stabilization Board were finalized, but the school board race filings will be extended until Wednesday.

“It was very busy,” said Acting City Clerk Mark Numainville, who said he did not leave the office until 8 pm. “We did 16 candidates on Friday. There were a few people in the morning, but most people came in the afternoon. That’s typical.”

The five candidates who qualified for the mayor’s race include City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, businesswoman Jacquelyn McCormick, and political activists Zachary Running Wolf and Khalil Jacobs-Fantuzzi. … Continue reading »

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Anatomy of a portrait: Artist captures essence of subject

Portrait cropped
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By Brandon Ahlstrom

“If the house was burning down,” Joan and Scott Fife tell me over the phone, “the portraits would be the first thing we take.”

There are two portraits hanging in the Fife household, one of Joan’s mother and one of their daughter Berkeley. “When people come over, Berkeley’s portrait is first thing we show them,” says Scott. According to Joan, a common reaction from guests is that she looks like she’s about to say something.

Before the Fifes received the painting, visitors to the painter’s studio in south Berkeley would also comment that she looks as if she’s on the verge of something.

For Seamus Berkeley, the painter in question, common reactions to a painting are a sure sign of its success, especially when the reactions are coming from both those who know the subject and those who do not. It shows that from nothing more than oil on canvas, viewers are independently able to apprehend the same idea. That idea is the essence of what makes Berkeley Fife who she is, or at least who she was at 18. (Note: the use of the word “Berkeley” in three distinct senses is purely coincidental and a continual source of frustration and amusement to all involved.)

Capturing the so-called essence of a person is Berkeley’s primary motivation in portrait painting.  “We’re in the universe experiencing this thing called being human, and it’s not going to last very long. So connecting with other people is really quite fascinating,” he says.Continue reading »

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