Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Grease Trap: Chron Food Takes Another Big Step Into Relevance

by John Birdsall
Wed, Mar 21, 2007 at 4:53 PM

Put a big smiley face on March 21 in your calendars, oh enlightened foodies. Today in Food, the Chron announces a momentous decision: In an ongoing series of features, the Bay's biggest daily will dig into the complex tangle of environmental and ethical issues that surround eating. Awesome, you say. But it's the hint of the Chron's internal debate embedded in the announcement that offers an interesting little peek into why it's taken so long for the paper to fully embrace the topically relevant. Called "Food Conscious," the occasional features will, in the words of staffer Carol Ness, "cover topics like the treatment of farm animals, and California dairy and cattle farms' growing piles of manure . . . Some stories will have a wonky bent, like ones about the farm bill pending in Washington DC." Ness herself kicked it off today with a piece about the movement among restaurants like Chez Panisse to banish bottled water in favor of filtered tap. Clearly, there's been an internal debate at the Chron that has to do with the traditional role of Wednesday food sections as a source of relatively weightless recipe pieces. Here's Ness addressing the negative side of the debate: "Some of the subjects might seem off-putting in a Food section. Readers let us know when we write about issues they don't want to think about - like slaughter, for instance." For those of us steeped in Pollan, it's inconceivable that any readers would object. But hey, right on to Ness and those at the Chron who won the argument to inject more substance into Wednesdays.

You Write Too Long: This Week's Cover Bite-Sized

by Kelly Vance
Wed, Mar 21, 2007 at 4:53 PM

This week, "Street Flix": For a "wingnut" who sleeps in a carport, Johnny Shaw is remarkably energetic and organized. His digitally produced documentary, My Big Fat Homeless Berkeley Movie, is much in demand at film festivals, and now Shaw is running around doing essentially the same things as a fledgling Hollywood filmmaker - except that instead of lunching at Spago, Shaw eats the free breakfast at Trinity Church and hangs out at one of his favorite spots, underneath the Haas Gymnasium ventilation exhaust. Otherwise, he's glued to his (donated) laptop all day like any other movie producer. As writer David Downs explains it, the vignette-based film itself is "at times very funny, and brutally sad, but never didactic and preachy." It's available at Amoeba and Rasputin, and soon, on

Catch Farm Bill Fever Tomorrow in Berkeley

by John Birdsall
Wed, Mar 21, 2007 at 4:53 PM

It's as big and complex as a Pentagon appropriation, and for once you can actually make some noise about it. Every five years an unholy alliance of lawmakers from farm states and Big Agro lobbyists decide the fate of the farm bill, a piece of legislation that, among other things, fixes the size of massive agricultural subsidies. It's a decision with perilous ripple effects for farmers around the world, and for once, food and farm activists are angling for heavy citizen involvement. Catch a bit of the heat at a panel discussion tomorrow night at Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium. Michael Pollan will moderate the J-School-sponsored event, which features Ann Cooper, the Berkeley Unified School District's feisty lunch lady, and eco author Dan Imhoff. Full press release after the jump.

Food Fight! A Teach-in about the 2007 Farm Bill moderated by Michael Pollan

Think the Farm Bill Doesn't Concern You? Think Again.

Michael Pollan will moderate a panel discussion of the 2007 farm bill, now being debated in Congress, with guests Ken Cook; Ann Cooper, Director of Nutrition Services for the Berkeley school system; Dan Imhoff, the author of Food Fight: A Citizen's Guide to the Farm Bill; Carlos Marentes; and George Naylor, Iowa corn farmer and president of the National Family Farms Coalition.

Later this year, the President will sign an obscure piece of legislation that will determine what happens on a couple of hundred million acres of private land in America, what sort of food Americans eat (and how much it costs) and, directly as a result, the health of our population. That piece of legislation is the farm bill, which, every five years, determines the rules by which the American food system operates, rules that end up affecting not only all of us who eat in the U.S., but people all over the developing world. Typically, the farm bill is written with virtually no input from anyone beyond a handful of farm-state legislators. Not so this year. A coalition of public health, environmental, family farmer, community food security, development and immigration groups is weighing in. Nothing could do more to reform the American food system --an by doing so improve the condition of America's environment and public health, as well as the prosperity of farmers throughout the developing world -- than if the rest of us were to start paying attention to the farm bill. Here's your chance.

In addition to the panel, a wide variety of food-related groups will be on hand to pass out pamphlets, answer questions, and provide ways for citizens to take direct action on this year's farm bill.

Food Fight: A Teach-in On the 2007 Farm Bill When: March 21, 2007, 7:00 pm -- 9:00 pm Where: Wheeler Auditorium Tickets: $5/Free UCB students Zellerbach Ticket Office 510.642.9988 Event will be webcast: Sponsored by the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism

Tribune Bitch-Slaps Jerry Brown

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Mar 21, 2007 at 4:53 PM

Today's must read: Oakland Tribune editorial about Attorney General Jerry Brown breaking the law and destroying public records. One Question: Where were editorials like this during the eight years Brown was mayor of Oakland?

The East Bay Today: March 21, 2007

Wed, Mar 21, 2007 at 4:53 PM

Today's Top Event: Oakland artist Scott Taylor's new show Bad Intentions, also featuring work by Clayton Glinton, runs through April 15 at Oakland's Float Gallery.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: Food Fight: A Teach-in on the 2007 Farm Bill. Michael Pollan moderates this discussion with guests Dan Imhoff, author of Food Fight: A Citizen's Guide to the Farm Bill; George Naylor, Iowa corn farmer and president of the National Family Farms Coalition; and Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Berkeley school system at UC Berkeley's Wheeler Hall.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Blackberry Bistro in Oakland.

On the Town: Going out tonight? No, Spicoli won't be there, but the Ruby Room's "Fast Times" will feature DJ Isaac Owen Money spinning rock 'n' roll classics.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out Courtroom Quotations.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Judge Awards $7,500 in Magazine Lawsuit

Tue, Mar 20, 2007 at 4:53 PM

If you've followed the saga of former Black Diamond Living editor Wanda Hennig's complaint against her former employer, Alfred Igbodipe, you've got the idea that Hennig doesn't believe Igbodipe treated his writers and editors fairly. A small-claims-court judge apparently agreed, awarding Hennig $7,500 - the maximum amount allowed in small-claims court.

The story reads a bit like a "Hello, I am Nigerian royalty" e-mail scam. Hennig took over as editor of the East Contra Costa County lifestyle magazine in 2005, and wrote in the complaint that she worked long hours on the promise she'd receive a partnership in the business. When Igbodipe asked her to design a magazine for Nigerian audiences, she and design editor Debbi Murzyn worked extra hours to build a prototype.

Then, last October, Igbodipe suddenly yanked the plug on the magazine and its editors.

Hennig's case asked for $3,000 in termination pay for her work, $3,500 for her work on the Nigerian magazine, and another $1,000 for termination pay that Igbodipe promised her in an e-mail. The judge awarded the full amount, plus $125 in expenses.

In an e-mail sent Friday, Hennig said she thought Igbodipe would appeal the decision. "I plan to go and demonstrate with a placard in Antioch or Pittsburg," she wrote, "as I know he will do anything not to pay!!!"

Full disclosure: Igbodipe didn't pay kill fees to writers who worked on the never-published January 2007 issue. I wasn't involved, but man, that sucks.

Previous Express blog coverage of Black Diamond Living magazine is here. --Eric Simons

The East Bay Today: March 20, 2007

Tue, Mar 20, 2007 at 4:53 PM

Today's Top Event: David Corbett's reads from his new thriller Blood of Paradise, along with fellow mysterian Cara Black, at A Great Good Place for Books in Piedmont.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US, talks at UC Berkeley's Institute of East Asian Studies

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Venus in Berkeley.

On the Town: Going out tonight? The Beep trio plays everything from jazz to folk at Caffe Trieste in Berkeley.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out Grow Your Own Virus.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cal Prof Tackles Gender Semantics in NYT Mag

by Lauren Gard
Mon, Mar 19, 2007 at 4:53 PM

UC Berkeley linguistics guru Robin Lakoff showed off her sex-descriptor savvy in yesterday's New York Times Magazine by contributing her two cents to William Safire's On Words column. This week, Safire tackled a burning question that's kept many of us up at night: How the heck does the media decide whether to use "woman" or "female" when describing high-profile xx-chomosomal folks? And why do it, anyway?

"'Four out of the eight Ivy League schools now have female presidents," USA Today reports ... Contrariwise, "Harvard Chooses Woman President," The Christian Science Monitor headlined ... CNN's Larry King, scrupulously fair, had it both ways: "Having the first woman speaker of the House made us wonder if American is ready for its first female president."

So what's the deal? Lakoff makes a distinction she'd do well to quiz students about on an exam if she wanted to mess with their GPAs: She points out that a "'woman doctor is closer to a 'doctor who is a woman,' while a female doctor is closer to a 'doctor who is female' - the last an adjective with no indefinite article. A very small distinction in meaning, but I think it works to focus more attention on 'woman' than is focused on 'female' in analogous cases." Right - our first thought, too.

But then she makes a more obvious point - no one ever says "male doctor," much less "man doctor." She tells Safire that preceding professions like president, speaker, doctor, and professor with either term "suggests that a woman holding that position is marked - in some way unnatural, and that it is natural for men to hold it."

Her own academic associates have increasingly ceased to express this gender bias in referring to her. (Of the 21 faculty comprising UC Berkeley's linguistics department, seven are women.) "In time I trust that women presidents and female speakers will vanish in the same way," she says.

Yet for the time being, Lakoff expects that oft-repeated references to Hillary Rodham Clinton's gender will negatively impact her success at the polls. "Since we feel so strongly (still) that a president is necessarily male, every time we say 'woman president,' we reinforce that view ... and make it harder to conceive of, and hence vote for, a woman in that role."

Still, it seems Clinton may be making more progress on the who-cares-if-I'm-a-woman front than Lakoff is giving her credit for. Need proof? Check out this recent article from the CoCo Times.

MediaNews Gets Perata Story Wrong -- Twice

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Mar 19, 2007 at 4:53 PM

MediaNews reporters Steven Harmon and Steve Geissinger speculate today on why state Senate boss Don Perata locked three of his colleagues out of their offices last week. But one of their theories - that Perata acted boldly because of "fears of being seen as weakened after news emerged last week that the US Attorney's Office had restarted interviews in its two-year investigation" of the senator - is bogus for at least two reasons. First, news didn't "emerge last week." Readers of this site know the news emerged here more than a month ago. Second, there's no evidence in the public record that the investigation ever stopped; so how could it have "restarted"?

Harmon and Geissinger aren't entirely at fault for their first error. Part of the blame should be shouldered by San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross, who wrote about a new aspect of the Perata investigation last week, but failed to mention that this new revelation was first reported by the Express on February 14. It's nothing new for Matier and Ross to retrace the steps of other news organizations and then present their version as a scoop.

But Harmon has another reason for claiming the investigation was "restarted." Harmon wrote an uninformed story February 5, saying the Perata investigation apparently had stopped (for some reason Harmon's story is not in the Oakland Tribune's archives, but it is available on Nexis - fee required). The Express' story nine days later, however, shows that the feds were continuing to issue subpoenas in the case during the time the investigation supposedly had "fallen into a black hole of obscurity," as Harmon put it.

Harmon jumped to his erroneous conclusion based on the assumption that the senator had stopped raising money for his legal defense fund. But another Express report last year clearly revealed that Perata was raising money through a second campaign account and then transferring the cash into his legal defense fund.

Even if Harmon doesn't like reading the Express, he could have just looked more closely at Perata's legal defense campaign statements. If so, he would have found that the state senator was still racking up more than $50,000 in legal bills during the last months of 2006 to combat the federal probe at a time when it was supposedly halted (for the details, see page 13, Steven).

The East Bay Today: March 19, 2007

Mon, Mar 19, 2007 at 4:53 PM

Today's Top Event: Trumpeter and bandleader Ralph Alessi headlines at Yoshi's.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: From Jefferson to Forrest Gump: How the Mall in Washington Became the Nation's Most Venerated Civic Space. Cornell University American History professor Michael Kammen delivers this Jefferson Memorial lecture at UC Berkeley's Barrows Hall.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: El Centenario in Oakland.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out the Prelinger Collection.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

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