Letters for the week of April 30-May 6, 2003 

Creamery folks revived a space, but don't call it a "jewel of the genre." You do a disservice to ruggers, and to fans of Oklahoma!

"Live-Work Lost," Feature, 4/ 9

Guts? Vision? Humph!

Your cover story was badly flawed on many levels. For instance, calling the dilapidated Creamery "the jewel of the genre" was frivolous, unless the genre was Brick Buildings on a Certain Block of San Pablo Avenue. And asserting that Marco Cochran "had vision and guts, but lacked a certain legalistic savvy" was bizarre. He planned to break laws (vision), and then he broke them (guts), and now he's complaining that he's in trouble with the law (that would be his lack of legalistic savvy?).

The article pretended to broadly examine live-work lofts in Oakland. It quoted architect Tom Dolan as an expert on live-work, which he is. But why not mention Dolan's own live-work complex, completed in 1993, and just a five-minute stroll from the Creamery? His splendid design sits among several vibrant live-work buildings renovated during the mid-1990s, all of which are home to dozens of artists who regularly gather, play music, mount exhibits, share ideas, and support each other as a community. This West Oakland enclave predates Mr. Cochran's arrival by several years, and yet the Express is lionizing Mr. Cochran and the Creamery as if he (and it) were something new?

It's difficult to get to know a neighborhood, much less a city, in the short time frame required for writing an article. But I wish your writer had sought more opinions from knowledgeable architects and developers. I wish the Express would make a serious attempt to explore the successes and failures of live-work developments in the East Bay, rather than publish a lightweight and jingoistic ("struggling artist good, city bureaucrats bad") jeremiad that strains credibility. How about profiling Kathryn Porter and her long track record of successful East Bay live-work developments? Her latest project turned a rundown West Oakland school building (the backdrop for the Jon Lovitz movie High School High) into 28 lovely live-work units. Or how about exploring the impact of Rick Holliday and David Baker? Arguably, Holliday is the most influential Bay Area developer of live-work, dating back to the 1980s. His firm's (and architect Baker's) 2002 Emeryville Warehouse renovation was nothing if not ambitious, taking a 1925 fruit-drying warehouse and turning it into a $17 million, 142-unit community. Looking back, their collaboration on the Clocktower in 1991 was an indisputable milestone in Bay Area loft living.

There are dozens of other influential live-work architects and developers, as well as historic live-work developments, worth mentioning in even a short article on live-work in the Bay Area. In other words, live-work is not "lost," and it was absurd to portray the sad Creamery story as the "rise and fall of Oakland's most famous artists' loft."
Kevin Morrison, Oakland

"Losing Soccer Moms," Letters, 4/9

Wonder if Jacques plays soccer?

I was amused by your titling my letter about Jacques Barzaghi "Losing Soccer Moms." I, at 76, am more of a soccer great-grandma.

I wrote as a representative of the Oakland/East Bay National Organization for Women. We have been concerned about Barzaghi for a long time.
Nancy Ward, Berkeley

"The Untouchables," Feature, 4/2

Mother of a Bear

I just had the opportunity to read your article, really a series of articles on Cal Rugby, after having spent the weekend at Witter Field and watching my son run on the pitch for the last time. While I enjoyed reading the history of rugby at Cal, I feel you did the players (past and present), the program, and the sport of rugby a disservice.

The first thing I would like to say is, played correctly it is not an ultraviolent game. The goal of the game is not to crush your opponent, but like every other sport the goal is to play your personal and your team best.

I don't think the statement that young men leave the Cal rugby program and Jack Clark's tutelage never to play rugby again is accurate. One thing I do know for certain is that five years ago I sent to Cal a great kid hungry to learn what Jack Clark and his staff could teach him.

Well, he did, and it wasn't all rugby. My son ran off Witter Field for the last time yesterday. He left as a strong, confident, caring man with a sense of honor and integrity, having learned many life lessons from the five years he spent in the program.

I got so much more than I bargained for when I sent him to Cal, but I can't imagine what more I could ask for than what Cal rugby has given him: the opportunity, the challenge, and the support to become a young man any mother would be proud of. I wonder how many Cal critics can say that their rugby program has done the same? Year after year, Jack Clark and the rugby staff turn out excellent players and exceptional young men. How can that possibly be bad for rugby? Go Bears!
Karen Houser, Newnan, GA

"Hooks, No Plot," Theater, 4/2

Break a leg, Drostova

I was astonished and dismayed to read Lisa Drostova's review of Oklahoma! I appreciate that she was viewing a dated work of art through today's lens. But how could she miss completely the theme of the musical?

The plot is not "kept simple and out of the way" as she states, nor is the "brief second-act static between ranchers and farmers" an afterthought, as she claims. Instead, every strand of the plot, every character's inner struggle, each interpersonal conflict, is appropriately and masterfully used to illustrate the tension between wildness and order, as Oklahoma moves from territory to statehood.

The characters correspond to various ranges on the scale between untamed sexuality (Judd, Ado Annie) and fidelity (Curley and Laurie, Will) -- and between living off the wild land (ranchers) and tilling and taming it (farmers). These themes are played out clearly and delightfully against the larger setting of Oklahoma's own tension as a frontier settlement now becoming part of the order represented by statehood.

Oklahoma! is much more than "a pleasant distraction," as Drostova wrote. It is surprising you sent a reviewer who failed to see and report the obvious.
Pat Milton, San Leandro

Correction
Last week's cover story on LASIK surgery ("A Pain in the Eye That's Forever," April 23) implied that Dr. Glenn Kawesch is certified by the Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance. In fact, contrary to the claims of his Web site, Kawesch is no longer certified by the council.

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