Do I look like a muthaf**in' role model? When Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates pilfered issues of the Daily Californian last fall after it endorsed then-incumbent Shirley Dean, he apparently taught impressionable Cal students an important civic lesson: If you disagree with the newspaper, steal it.
Last week, critics of the Daily Cal did just that. They stole more than 2,800 copies of the 10,000-circulation paper in order to censor (and censure) it for two recent items -- a political cartoon depicting a slanty eyed North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and a crime story about a black Cal football player arrested after a frat-party brawl for allegedly fracturing another student's skull with a bottle.
"Some people will tend to do everything in their power to make sure that their viewpoint prevails," says Rong-Gong Lin II, whose term as editor of the Daily Cal concluded (coincidentally) last Friday. Lin says he sympathized with the student critics, but stood by the decision to run the items. "They don't stand back to understand that one of the foundations of academic discussion is freedom of speech."
It started with an April 25 editorial cartoon some readers derided as a "racist, anti-Asian caricature." According to Lin's subsequent editorial, the paper received 100-plus e-mails condemning the depiction of "slanted, virtually nonexistent eyes" and "jutting teeth." Lin felt it exaggerated the actual features of the North Korean leader and didn't represent an Asian stereotype.
While that controversy simmered, the paper ran a boilerplate crime story about a raucous fight on frat row involving dozens of students but only one arrest -- of a Cal offensive lineman whose picture, as a campus celebrity, ran along with the item.
The response was immediate. A crowd of protestors crashed the paper's offices and demanded a front-page apology from the reporter. They complained that the football player was singled out unfairly, that the mug-shot-like photo furthered negative depictions of blacks in the media, and that only one side was represented. (See "Cal Football Player Arrested in Assault" in the May 6 issue at Dailycal.org.)
After the editors denied the protestors' demand, at least one, Lin says, threatened to disrupt the paper's distribution. The Daily Cal newsroom was subsequently "locked down" to prevent further incursions. Newspapers began disappearing the next day.
David Philoxene, a recent Cal graduate and reader for an African-American Studies class, believes the paper has a longstanding history of failure to articulate the "issues, experiences, and successes of the black community on campus." He was among the fifty protestors who spoke to the editors last Tuesday. Although the Daily Cal isn't responsible for how people perceive images, he notes, it must be responsible for how they're presented. "There was a lot of symbolic language being employed in the article," he says.
So far, campus police have cited two students for stealing papers, one of whom also participated in the office protest. But Philoxene insists theft was not the group's intention. That type of protest, he says, is unsustainable at best. "We're trying to have real institutional changes," he notes, "and stealing papers is not going to resolve the issues we have with them." -- Helene Blatter
It's only rock 'n' roll (but Don likes it): Kensington rock concert promoter Danny Scher is in a business that requires a big mouth. Being a loudmouth -- especially a high-profile one -- can attract the attention of influential politicians such as state Senate Majority Leader Don Perata. The Don quietly introduced a bill to the legislature last month that would have allowed Scher -- best known for his role in building the Shoreline Amphitheater -- to hold concert fund-raisers for charities at his Kensington home, which happens to be equipped with its own mini-amphitheater.
In the past, Sher had scheduled benefits to raise funds for the Parkinson's Institute and other charities, with performers to include Jackson Browne and former Duke Ellington drummer Louie Bellson playing with the Cal State Hayward Big Band. His volume-conscious neighbors, it goes without saying, had a hissy fit. (Call 'em NIHBYs: Not in His Back Yard.)
The Contra Costa County Board of Supes has told Scher he can't host regular gigs at his home without a special-use permit. The decision pleased Scher's neighbors, but Danny Boy was livid. He called an old acquaintance, longtime Perata aide Lindy Graham, and gave her an earful. "He called me," she recalls, "and said it doesn't seem legitimate or appropriate." Graham agreed. After all, she reasoned, lots of people throw political and charity fund-raisers in their homes on occasion, without a use permit. "Why was Mr. Scher being singled out?" she asks.
Supervisor John Gioia, who represents the Kensington area, says an "occasional" concert fund-raiser is one thing; but Scher planned on holding three or four a year, according to Graham. That's more than "occasional," Gioia says, and thus Scher should get a permit.
The latest, however, is that Perata is shelving the bill and leaving the locals to work it out. Why the sudden change of course? Gioia notes that Scher's neighbors got wise to his latest scheme and began spamming Perata and other pols. Perata, he says, "may have seen the writing on the wall and figured this was the best course."
Oh, in case you were wondering: Scher hasn't donated or raised money, Graham says, to bankroll Perata's political aspirations. So why the attempt to trump the county? Who knows. Maybe Perata needs a place to practice so he can audition for John Ashcroft's group, the Singing Senators. -- Will Harper
Sour notes: Recently, lawyers representing the estate of the late trumpeter Chet Baker visited an Oakland federal courtroom to accuse Berkeley's Fantasy Records of breach of contract and defrauding their client of more than $5 million in royalty fees and damages. Baker's lawyers claim the local distributor continues to profit from five master recordings made by the jazz great nearly forty years ago, even though a previous settlement called for the tapes to go to Baker's family.
In August 1965, the lawsuit contends, Baker cut five albums, later dubbed the "Prestige Masters," in a New Jersey recording studio. At the time, the recordings were owned by Richard Carpenter, Baker's manager and a noted figure in jazz history who was famous for making lopsided deals with naive musicians. Years later, Carpenter leased the recordings to Fantasy, which used the material to turn out three CDs, including the tracks "Groovin'," "Cool Burnin'," and "Comin' On."
After Baker's death in 1988, the musician's family sought to straighten out longstanding contract disputes with his former manager. Lawyers for Baker's estate say the trumpeter's widow, Carol Baker, agreed to negotiate with Carpenter on the condition he turn over, among other tapes, the Prestige Masters. But just before signing the deal with her in 1994, Carpenter sold off most of his assets, peddling the leased recordings to Fantasy. He died shortly thereafter.
Baker's estate lawyers now claim Carpenter conspired with Fantasy execs in the weeks leading up to the 1994 settlement in a "secret agreement" to pass the recordings to the label, leaving Baker's family high 'n' dry. In court documents, the lawyers say Carpenter dangled the Prestige Masters to "deceive the Baker estate to act and settle all litigation between the parties." Lawyers for Fantasy deny any such conspiracy, arguing that the label bought the recordings from Carpenter on the square, even paying Baker's widow a royalty fee of $15,000.
Last month, the combatants met in Oakland to try and settle the dispute pre-trial. Both parties, however, failed to return repeated phone calls, choosing, in this matter, to play it silent. -- Justin Berton
Oops, they're touchable after all: Fans of the Cal rugby team watched in shock and awe May 3 as their team was upset by Air Force 46-28 in the semifinals of the national championship. The Bears hadn't lost a match to an American squad in seven years, and the loss ended the team's streak of twelve consecutive championships. (See "The Untouchables," April 2.)
After an Air Force player was seriously injured and taken away in an ambulance, his team played with a palpable sense of vigor. "I think after they saw their comrade go down, they decided they were going to win the match come hell or high water," says John Collum, a former Cal assistant coach.
Air Force went on to beat Harvard for the championship. In the consolation match, the Bears drubbed Army 75-3. "The loss was a lot of things," he says. "It was wild, it was rough, it was unexpected, it was disappointing.
"It was," he added, "good for the game." -- Justin Berton
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