Letters for the week of May 24-30, 2006 

Understand the context at Cafe Van Kleef. Understand the poignancy of life with Fragile X. Understand the motivation for Asian-American ball. Understand the tragedy of Asian-American ball.

"The Party's Over?" Bottom Feeder, 4/19

Hip and safe too
I was heartened to read your mostly balanced piece on Cafe Van Kleef. However, as a member of the "consortium" that now owns 1621 Telegraph Avenue where Peter Van Kleef holds a 25-year lease, I'd like to address a couple of misunderstandings in your article.

As much as I'd love to be a member consortium, I'm afraid that we, the new owners, are simply five Oakland architects and engineers who are now working in the same building as Peter. We are not absentee landlords investing in faraway real estate.

As for our plans to commandeer the building's basement, the previous owner had already ousted Peter from much of the space. In fact, his lease reflects that. And the "mezzanine" above Cafe Van Kleef is not even legally accessible. Peter uses a ladder to get to it.

I can appreciate Peter's desire to expand into the space next door, especially because the bar has only one exit. That's worrisome with large crowds coming to listen to live music. However, to give Peter the space would mean eviction for the current tenant, and Parrott's Beauty Salon has been serving the African-American community here for nearly two decades.

I was happy to read that Peter has applied for a cabaret license from the city. As both citizens and landlords, we want everyone to comply with the city's rules and regulations. As occupants who share the premises with Peter, we want to be sure that electrical wiring, garbage disposal, and other such health and safety issues are not in violation of city codes.

I'm glad that Peter, by order of Oakland's fire marshal, has removed the stacks of flammable paint cans and paint thinner he'd been storing in the basement. That makes all of us safer, including Peter's customers.

Peter should be proud of his role in the "hipsterization of uptown Oakland," as your article phrased it. We, the new owners, think Cafe Van Kleef is cool, too. A future in compliance with city ordinances designed to protect us will ensure a safe and happier future for both building tenants and café patrons alike.
Kathleen Rousseau, Oakland
partner, RPR Architects


"The Fragile Ones," Feature, 4/19

Heartfelt thanks
Thank you for such a well-informed and well-written article about Fragile X. As parents of two children affected by Fragile X, boys eighteen and sixteen, I feel that you captured the poignancy of all our lives. I'm the former president of the Northern California Fragile X Association, and my husband, John Harrigan, is the former president of the board of directors of the National Fragile X Foundation. In those roles, and as parents, I want to thank you for your careful research, your thorough coverage of all the conditions the mutation of the gene can cause, and for taking the time to understand both the genetics and the effects of the syndrome. Most articles we've read or contributed to fail to provide those attributes and leave their readers with an inaccurate picture of Fragile X.

I wish I could pick up the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, or New York Times that are sitting in my kitchen and be assured that a similar article on any medical or genetic condition would impart such an intelligent and informed snapshot. Thank you for your clear and detailed focus.
Stephanie Jacob, Pleasant Hill


"Jumping Through Hoops," Cityside, 4/19

Asian-American ball stems from discrimination against Asians
Painting Asian-American basketball leagues as "exclusionary, to be sure," woefully ignores the seventy-year history of such leagues and why they were created in the first place. In the 1930s, Japanese Americans formed basketball leagues for themselves after being excluded from other public leagues. During World War II, when 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were taken from their homes and sent to concentration camps in their own country, basketball remained an activity they were able to enjoy, despite living behind barbed wire.

These basketball leagues, which have expanded to include all Asian-Pacific Islanders, continue to this day as a way of creating community, building friendships, and maintaining cultural ties. There is no need to apologize for their existence, as the author seems intent on doing.

As for the African-American youth mentioned in the article as watching the games and feeling left out, these leagues would seem to be [more] grounds for a common understanding with them than a reason for pity. As minorities, we appreciate that we have places to go to share in a cultural heritage with others like ourselves. Would the author really complain about the survival of historically black colleges and universities, whose principal mission is the education of black Americans?
Gavin Tachibana, Berkeley

Asian-American ball stems from white supremacist society
Thanks for publishing the thought-provoking "Jumping Through Hoops" by Momo Chang. As an Asian-American man, I am pleased to learn that spaces like the Dream League exist and that there is a sizable community of adult Asian-American ball players hooping it up together in the bay.

Kudos aside, I was disturbed by the one-dimensional and negative framing of this group as "For Asians Only: This new community sports league is not for everyone." Though catchy, this title, as appeared on the cover of the Express, misses the mark and sends a shortsighted message that can be interpreted that the league is racist and racially divisive, which seems untrue.

In the piece itself, I would have liked to hear more from the ball players interviewed in Momo Chang's piece about why they are in an Asian-American league and what they get out of being a part of something like that. As hinted by the author I wonder what "unmet need(s)" — psychosocial or other — this league is satisfying for this group of Asian-American men, and whether the players and the leadership body of this nonprofit can articulate it.

Lastly, upon perusing the Dream League Web site, I am troubled by the fact that in its mission there is no mention of it being an Asian-American male basketball league. Since we live in a white- supremacist-(dominated) society and culture I believe it is good to project positive and athletic Asian-American male identities, especially since such identities are only reserved for the Bruce Lees, Yao Mings, or Ichiros of our whitewashed imagination. Thus, it would be a worthy endeavor for the league's leadership to revisit its stated goals and objectives and to think a little more critically about its mission.
Tony Nguyen, Oakland

Asian-American ball imitates white-supremacist society
Your fascinating story about the Asian-only basketball league has fuzzy treatment of some touchy issues. For instance, you say it is okay for a racial group to rent Oakland public gyms for its exclusive use on Sundays, because, due to park and rec financial problems, those facilities would not be open on Sunday if the racial group didn't pay to open them. Well, in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1950 public schools had their financial problems, and somehow the white race got the bulk of the money for public school facilities.

This deal with the Asian Dream League smells of Jackson, Mississippi, to me.
Ted Vincent, Oakland


"The Suspense Is Killing Us," This Week, 4/19

One plus seven equals boondoggle
Kelly Vance's note on Joseph Blum's photographs of the construction of the new east span of the Bay Bridge says in passing that it is "still more than a year away from completion." While this is technically correct, it would be more accurate to describe the bridge as more than SEVEN years away from completion. The original plan was to finish in 2007, but the current official estimate is "late 2013." Yes, really. At that time the bridge will have been under construction for over ten years, and will be by far the most expensive bridge in the world — even though it's only half a bridge.
Jef Poskanzer, Berkeley

Correction
In an editor's note that appeared in our 5/17 issue, editor Stephen Buel erroneously asserted that the SF Weekly barely mentioned the 1996 series "Dark Alliance" by the San Jose Mercury News. In fact, the Weekly published at least three media columns by Phyllis Orrick and Susan Rasky, none of which now appears on the paper's Web site or in its Nexis archives, which alluded to the Merc's work. However, all three pieces were even-handed treatments of Webb's work, and none could be said to be a "hatchet job."


Express wins twelve Press Club awards
The Express won a dozen awards - - including five first places - - in the East Bay Press Club's 2005 Awards for Print Journalism, the only local contest in which publications of every type compete directly with one another.

Chris Thompson won first place in the lifestyle feature writing category for his cover story "The Revolution Comes to Rossmoor" (5/16/05) and second place for his weekly column City of Warts. Robert Gammon's profile of Congressman Richard Pombo, "Welcome to Pombo Country" (8/24/05), won first place in the general news writing category. Illustrator Jon Langford took a second place in the illustration category for his accompanying painting. Gammon also took a third place for investigative/in-depth news writing for his cover story, "At Large" (1/12/05), a report on how the Highway Patrol jailed the wrong man in its flawed East Bay sniper investigation. Assistant art director Justin Page took second place in the page design category for that issue's cover.

Staff writer Kara Platoni earned first place in the profile writing category for her cover story "Remote Control" (11/9/05), a profile of UC Berkeley engineering whiz and conceptual artist Ken Goldberg. Freelance writer Jonathan Kaminsky took first place for sports feature writing for his cover story "Wounded Warriors" (12/14/05) about the Richmond Steelers youth football team. Freelance writer Alex Handy won a first place for business feature writing for his cover story, "The Buzzmakers" (5/18/05), which profiled the Emeryville marketing company Forty Two. Former editorial fellow Laila Weir won second place for her cover story "Games Without Frontiers" (3/23/05), a glimpse inside the expanding world of Web-based fantasy games. Restaurant writer Jonathan Kauffman won third place in the criticism and reviewing category. And former staff writer Justin Berton took third place in the profile writing category for his story about a singer-songwriter in "David Dondero's Opening Act" (1/19/05).

There were a total of 326 entries in the contest, and 80 awards were handed out in 28 categories. Nine Bay Area print media organizations took home awards. The Contra Costa Times won the most with 27, followed by the San Francisco Chronicle with fourteen. The Express tied the Oakland Tribune/ANG Newspapers for third. Judging the entries were members of press clubs and news organizations from Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Cleveland, San Diego, and Louisville.

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