Letters for January 14 

Readers sound off on UC Berkeley's biofuels lab, the Oracle Arena, and our music and dining reviews.

"Darkness on the Edge of Town," Feature, 12/10

Dead-less Arena

I wanted to thank you for doing your story on Oracle Arena. Any excuse to have "the Boss" on the cover of the East Bay Express!

As someone who has recently moved to Oakland I'd love to see some more shows there. I was able to catch both recent Springsteen shows and the first night of AC/DC and it's a great place to see a show. The public transit factor with the BART and Amtrak stations right there is a no-brainer. But one fact was sadly omitted from the article is that the Grateful Dead who have appeared in the Arena almost ninety times since their first gig there on 2/17/1979 no longer perform. As much as the Grateful Dead is associated with San Francisco in the '60s and '70s — the East Bay hosted a majority of the shows in the '80s and '90s.  A fact that is NEVER lost on me.

Benny O'Connor, Oakland

Remodel Killed Oracle

My vote for why Oracle Arena is a loser of a venue is unquestionably the 1996 renovation. For the sake of luxury boxes (to hell with the ordinary guy!) and more concession space, the renovation completely destroyed the beauty and spaciousness of the promenade space. No more stepping out of the arena for a walk through the crowd and wondering, is that wall curved, or is it just my mind?

Norman Engvall, Oakland

High-Priced Crime

Regarding the article about the Oracle Arena in Oakland and the financial problems, the issues go much deeper than what you mentioned in your story. The whole Arena has been mismanaged since the changes to bring back the Raiders. What makes the city think it can do such a GREAT job, when they can't even run the City of Oakland properly!

Crime, illegal activities (drug sales, prostitution, scams, thefts, and scalping of tickets) are also contributing factors in the downward slide of the Arena. I stopped going to the Arena back in '96, and will never return there for any reason.

First, the powers that be, view the fans and event-goers as the "Cash Rich Cows." That they will pay any amount of money to attend events.

Just to park is $20! As proof that this is outrageous, many people will park outside of event parking to avoid that expense. Of course many do pay the parking fee, but the people resent it! Management determines parking restrictions and how to park. However, the management seems to put little to no effort in curbing the criminal element wandering the parking lots. Sure there's security driving around the lot, but they do very little at actually doing anything about it.

Having been approached by drug dealers with my kids in tow to sell me drugs is appalling! Seeing prostitutes doing business at events makes parents with children not want to go there. Plus, adding in the drunkenness, foul language, and rude behavior, why would anyone want to go to the Oakland Arena.

HP Pavilion is clean, safe, and devoid of all of these problems. I [would] rather drive 1.5 hours to see an event in San Jose, than drive 20 minutes to the Oracle Arena. Plus the costs are less and people are better there. Why should I have to put up with non-civilized animals and pay for it too?

Derrick Soo, Oakland

Editor's Note

Concert parking now costs $25.

"Biofuels Lab Threatens Strawberry Canyon," Eco Watch, 12/3

UC in Bed with Big Oil

Of course UC Berkeley is willing to rip out numerous trees and dramatically change the character of the landscape in Strawberry Canyon with its new biofuels lab. After all, they climbed into bed with British Petroleum after a story ran in the Chronicle about BP's mismanagement of the Alaskan pipeline. The story reported how BP had unconscionably deferred so much maintenance on the pipeline that it leaked in various places into the permafrost, and was threatening to leak in many more places. Making a deal for environmental research with such an irresponsible oil company (if that's not a redundancy), combined with its continuing to carry the "Torture Professor," celebrated war criminal John Yoo, on its faculty payroll, shows beyond any doubt that if UC Berkeley was once a bastion of liberalism, it certainly no longer is today.

Joseph Scanlon, Oakland

Berkeley in Bed with Regents

I'm glad that the East Bay Express is finally getting the information out about another contentious green-washing project sponsored by UC Regents and their BP partners.

In your lead paragraph, you mention that there have been "no protests." In fact, at the public comment meeting last year, NOT ONE PERSON (in a room of about forty) was in favor of new construction, other than the architects. The EIR has also been protested at Berkeley City Council meetings. Tom Bates and his buddies have been acting as if they are in the pockets of the non-democratically elected UC Regents, holding firmly to the thighs. This is a sad situation that requires serious action.

Mike Hoey, Berkeley

"Waiting to Catch a Wave," Food & Drink, 12/3

They'll Get Tikier

As a regular customer of Tiki Tom's, I was glad to see a review of one of my favorite restaurants. While my experiences there have been much more positive than your reviewer's, I agree with most of his judgments about the place's strengths and weaknesses.

One thing I would like to correct: Despite the name, TT is not a pure retro-tiki bar in the mold of Forbidden Island or the Conga Lounge.

It is a beach bar and nightclub, with a flavor closer to Margaritaville than Tonga Room, as well as a nice seafood restaurant in the mold of the old Pier 29 formerly at the same location. The panoramic windows and the decor (heavier on surfboards than on tiki carvings) work perfectly to provide this atmosphere.

The food is good, though not always consistent. Pork dishes generally get the most praise from my foodie friends, but the mahi mahi and the ahi poke are well prepared and presented. The teriyaki beef appetizer is great.

The bartenders are all experienced and mix a classy island drink. I don't know what happened to your reviewer's Mai Tai, but all the "boat drinks" I've seen had umbrellas and tropical garnish in a nice selection of tiki bar glassware. Full props for presentation. Some of the juice drinks could and should be a tad stronger, but at Tom's low prices, doubles are always an option.

Back to the decor: Tiki bars grow tikier over time. The other Tiki Tom's, in Walnut Creek, took a year or more to achieve its vibe, as Tom and various customers brought in stuff for the walls. By the next time you review this TT, it will look more an old-style tiki place (but still with the big windows) and they'll probably have plenty of swizzle sticks.

Brian R. McDonald, Alameda

"Dueling Mythologies," Movies, 12/3

Dissing Diddley

I have seen Zaks' Chess Records, later renamed Who Do You Love, out of respect and in tribute to Bo Diddley who died in June, 2008 when the film was in its final editing stages. While it is true that there is a Bo Diddley character in the film, played by the great guitarist Robert Randolph, Bo is hardly the focus of the movie. But, at least he is in two scenes ... as opposed to ZERO scenes in Cadillac Records.

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