Boo hoo, sue Yoo
Convicted last year of conspiring to commit murder and to fund and support overseas terrorism, Brooklyn-born José Padilla — who was carrying $10,526 and al-Qaida operatives' contact information when arrested — filed suit on January 4 against UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo. The professor, author of War by Other Means: An Insider's Account of the War on Terror (Atlantic Monthly, $24), wrote memos while employed by the US Department of Justice contending that enemy combatants are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. "Mr. Padilla suffered and continues to suffer severe mental and physical harm as a result of the 44 months of military detention and interrogation ... for which Defendant Yoo personally purported to provide a legal blank check," reads the complaint, filed by Padilla and his mother.
Setting the family kitchen afire by igniting eyeglass-cleaning fluid. Launching rockets into the neighbors' pool party. Banging his chest uncontrollably and shouting like Tarzan. UC Berkeley undergrad Blake Taylor writes frankly about his life in ADHD & Me ($14.95), from Oakland's New Harbinger. It's a true insider's guide, with vivid anecdotes about hyperactivity, unpopularity, tics, disorganization, and impulsiveness: "Rather than consequences, a person with ADHD thinks of the joy of seeing action."
Yo no soy marinero
Scott Peterson tied four cement weights to his wife's corpse after strangling her in their kitchen on December 24, 2002, according to a woman who claims he told her this during a prison visit. In I'm Sorry I Lied to You (Digi-Tall, $27), Donna Thomas alleges that Peterson told her that he drove Laci's body to the Berkeley Marina, stowed it in his boat, set out into the bay, perused Playboy magazines, then deep-sixed it.
Rock on, Aqualung
Ex-El Cerrito band Metallica "delivered one of the strongest performances" of the 1989 Grammy Awards broadcast, Ken Ehrlich recounts in At the Grammys! (Hal Leonard, $29.95), his fascinating blow-by-blow of the show he has produced since 1980, "but then suffered the indignity of being bested in the newly introduced Hard Rock/Metal category by Jethro Tull."
Granddad was rad
Antiwar and anti-military rallies surged across the UC Berkeley campus ... during the Great Depression, according to Charles Wollenberg's century-plus-spanning Berkeley: A City in History (UC Press, $18.95). In those days, the feisty ASUC "attempted to force local employers to maintain 'Fair Bear' standards, including a minimum wage for student employees." See, this town's progressive bent didn't start with Mario Savio.
Nearly forty years after the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland, its icons and ethos are thoroughly infused into American mass culture, writes Jane Rhodes — Macalester College's Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity — in Framing the Black Panthers (New Press, $35). Rhodes notes Pantheristic influences in TV's Big Brother, comic strip Boondocks, Walter Mosley's mystery novels, and more.
Rusty Morrison, cofounder of the Richmond-based fabulist-fiction publishing house Omnidawn, won this year's $1,500 Sawtooth Poetry Prize for her book the true keeps calm biding its story (Ahsahta, $17.50). With many dreamy lines ending in "stop," it evokes an old-fashioned telegram, e.g.: "the arsonist's perspiration stains the sky black please/the gray-and-white patched cat licks her paw till value becomes again/incalculable stop/...the stickiness of this instance seals within it every expression of its menace/please advise."
When Charles Halpern founded the nation's first public-interest law firm in 1969, he and his partners "decided that we did not want to dress like conventional lawyers. We would wear khakis or jeans with bell-bottoms" — because "rewriting the rules in small ways made it easier to think about rewriting them in larger ways." The Berkeleyite revisits a career that merges law, liberal values, and Buddhism in Making Waves and Riding the Currents: Activism and the Practice of Wisdom (Berrett-Koehler, $24.95). The Dalai Lama provided a foreword.
Bookstores come, bookstores go
Bonanza Street Books in Walnut Creek will close its doors forever in March, joining a sad parade of defunct East Bay book emporia that run the gamut from Cody's to the downtown Berkeley Barnes & Noble. Costs grew too high and income too low for BSB after twenty years in its downtown spot. Meanwhile, Rebecca's Books — specializing in ethnic poetry — opened at 3268 Adeline Street in Berkeley in October.
Subjectivity you can dance to
The story of calypso and soca is one of racism, gender/class inequities, and the evils of global capitalism, according to UC Berkeley ethnomusicology professor Jocelyne Guilbault in Governing Sound: The Cultural Politics of Trinidad's Carnival Musics (University of Chicago, $25). Guilbault writes that she's interested in "the politics of aesthetics in relation to the construction of national subjects and subjectivities."
Chained and bound into near-paralysis by a hot but mysterious Houstonian, the narrator of Aaron Travis' story in The Best of Best American Erotica 2008 (Touchstone, $14) becomes "a hunky blond slave" as the Houstonian strangles him, then uses the narrator's head "like a cored melon." Aaron Travis is a pseudonym for Berkeley's Steven Saylor, author of many novels set in ancient Rome.
"Your heart will feel like it has been ripped out of your chest, wounded with emotional rawness, and pinned to your sleeve, unable to heal, outside your body forever." Don't say you weren't warned. In My Mother Wears Combat Boots: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us ($16.95), new from Oakland's AK Press, punk saxophonist and political activist Jessica Mills advises fledgling 'rents on everything from diapers (cloth) to breast-feeding ("Other passengers should thank you for breast-feeding on the plane. With your boob stuck in baby's mouth, it ain't crying!") to gender ("Neutrality is OK ... babies don't really care if they're called boy or girl. So if the baby doesn't mind, why should we?").
Size doesn't matter
Berkeley-based Small Press Distribution, which handles oodles of titles we might never know about otherwise, has issued its recommendations to start off the new year. Among them are Mommy Must Be a Mountain of Feathers (Action, $14), by Korean poet Kim Hyesoon, in which "horror is packed inside cuteness, cuteness inside horror." Excerpt: "Have you ever turned on the light inside your intestine? ... When the light is switched on inside my darkness, I buzz like a beetle pinned down, bung, bung, bung, bung, and shake my head wildly, my muzzle holding onto a black string." SPD also touts Johannes Göransson's poetry of "private genocide," A New Quarantine Will Take My Place (Apostrophe, $14). Excerpt: "Will you sooth my scarlet, will you wool my tool? ... did you maybe dream of babies who wheeze strangely? ... The Queen of Pork."
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