Letters for the week of July 21-27, 2004 

What's killing bulky trash day? How about the profit motive? Plus thoughts on Mexican Americans and a few more bullying resources.

"But He Was Just Taking Orders," East Side Story, 6/16

Money and power corrupt
Justin Berton's East Side Story about the Lakireddy men was not only one of the clearest reviews yet of this dirty little mess, but also a superb character study of how money and power can co-opt an entire family.
Doug Hayward, Alameda

"Thought about it 2," Letters, 6/23

In regards to Boots Riley's statement: "Bands Against Bush advertised the Coup as headlining a concert that they had never spoken to me about, positing me as some 'anybody but Bush' guy."

Boots Riley was never confirmed for the Bands of Bush International Day of Action in 2003. The organizing group wanted him to be involved, and was in communication with his manager. There was a miscommunication along the way, and it went to press with him confirmed when it should not have been.

We were never claiming to speak for or trying to put words in the mouth of an artist we respect or feel a kinship for. That's not what we do. Clearly, we were just less organized than we are now in the world of booking and organization, and something went out, uncorrected, that should not have. Sorry!
Conan Neutron, Bands Against Bush Bay Area

"Down to a Science," On Food, 6/30

Oh my god
I read Jonathan Kauffman's review of the Albany Bistro on June 30. I went there immediately for the best meal I have had since I can't remember when! The ambience is beautiful, the music heavenly, the service superb, and the food! OH MY GOD. Gravlax with a hint of ginger and fresh dill on crisp won ton skins, plump juicy prawns in a crisp rice noodle wrapping -- difficult to describe. Chicken wrapped in crisp pancetta -- all these for six or seven dollars tops! The management was so hurt by the write-up because the chef had made an error on one of the sauces! You should visit a place more than once before writing a critical report. This restaurant -- which is open all the time -- is a MUST-GO experience!
Anne Van Winkle, Oakland

As his review made clear, Jon Kauffman always pays two visits to the restaurants he reviews.

"What's Killing Bulky Trash Day?" Feature, 6/30

Free is best
To answer the question -- "What's Killing Bulky Trash Day?" -- we need to go a little deeper than the article. I remember the good old days of bulky trash in the Mission in SF when our neighborhood partied down, swapping stuff, handing out bikes to the kids, trucks and shopping carts swooping through, the junk piles magically melting away. The atmosphere was hectic, festive. It had to be stopped. This was just too damn un-American. The idea of people sharing their stuff, allowing artists free materials, letting marginal or (gasp) homeless people to sell junk at flea markets is anarchy. It is contrary to the very notion of PROFIT.

I have been a confirmed Dumpster diver for many fruitful years. It is a rare day riding around Berkeley on my bicycle that I don't find something I can use. Yesterday, a backpack frame perfect for a giant puppet. Today, a set of plastic storage drawers just right for my mosaic tiles. I also worked for the East Bay Depot for about a year. It was a dream come true. Part of my duties was to go out in the big yellow truck for Berkeley's bulky trash days. I was a "professional" Dumpster diver with a license to scrounge. I always tried to encourage homeowners to be positive about the other folks out there picking up junk. I ran into all kinds of people -- artists, neighbors, and flea market vendors who were helping to recycle the trash. There was plenty for all; we always filled up our truck with primo junk.

But working for the depot became more and more frustrating since they would not allow us to pick up anything other than salable furniture and art in perfect condition. No sports or exercise equipment, no plastic, no toys, no clothes, construction materials, hardly any books, etc. The depot and Urban Ore turn away tons of usable items because they would rather price things high and handle less inventory.

The depot has a very rigid management which did not allow any room for suggestion as to how to recycle, or anything else for that matter. When the employees unanimously voted to join a union, management fired, laid off, harassed, and got rid of almost the entire staff. So it is a little tough to see the depot featured so positively. I would encourage everyone not to donate to the depot and instead to simply put their usable junk out in open cardboard boxes. Black plastic bags are not only a waste of plastic (one of the most difficult materials to recycle) but they are also hard to open without making a mess.

The other day I cruised by a yard that had about ten boxes of various things laid out, a sign that said "free," and some paper bags for your shopping convenience. A brilliant Berkeley solution. Just because the joyous abundance of bulky pickups is no more doesn't mean that we can't put our stuff out on the curb.

Obviously, reuse is better than recycling because a secondhand item does not use raw materials and energy to be manufactured. It's far better to reuse stuff locally, avoiding environmentally costly transportation.


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