Reed Riff 

Ishmael harpoons Oaktown

TUE 11/12

A lot of things have been said about Oakland. Some of them good, and some of them -- well, we won't go there. Prolific novelist, essayist, and poet Ishmael Reed -- author of Reckless Eyeballing, The Terrible Twos, and Mumbo Jumbo -- is known for his postmodernist satires of the American social landscape. But in his newest work, Blues City: A Walk in Oakland, Reed departs from the sardonic to weigh in on the city often seen as San Francisco's "ugly stepsister." Blues City (a moniker used to describe Oakland's similarity to smokestack cities of the Northeast) walks readers through "the many worlds within Oakland," from its beginnings as a Spanish Mission and Gold Rush outpost to the birthplace of the Black Panthers, and beyond. The book, which Publishers Weekly describes as "part homage and part rant (mostly against Mayor Jerry Brown and his 'elegant density' plan to gentrify the downtown area with hi-tech businesses)," combines travelogue with transcribed interviews, historical happenings with present problems, to portray both Oakland's beauty and its blight.While Blues is possibly Reed's most acerbic treatment of the city's political climate, it isn't the first time the longtime Oakland resident has written about his 'hood. Reed teamed up with award-winning photographer Richard Nagler to render a striking portrait of the multicultural and multifaceted city in 1994's Oakland Rhapsody: The Secret Soul of an American Downtown. It's also worth noting that critics' perspectives on Reed's writing have been somewhat of a mixed bag. Characterizations of his work alternate between "incoherent, muddled, and abstruse" and "genius, revolutionary, and vivid." For many, perhaps it is this very juxtaposition that will lend special credence to his take on the beloved and much-maligned city. Join Reed this Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way, in Berkeley of all places, for a reading of Blues City and a reminder of why Oakland is, above all else, the perfect example of a modern American city. The reading is free. 510-548-0585.-- Joy White


Great States

Lit Happens

Brainwash Award-winning performance poet Mark States, founder of the Rhythmic Revolution, starts this week's session of the Whole Note Poetry Series, followed by open-mike poetry, prose, and acoustic music at the Beanery (2925 College Ave., Berkeley). (Wed., 7 p.m.). ... Enjoyed your Thanksgiving ham? Pork speaks in Babe, which will be screened this afternoon at the Orinda Library (Fri., 3 p.m.). ... First as a Raiders quarterback, then as a coach, now as a sportscaster, Tom Flores has been scrimmaging with the home team since it began. Accordingly, he dishes in Tales from the Oakland Raiders. Huddle with Tom at San Leandro's A World of Books (Sat., 1 p.m.). ... Check out the Upanishads and The Jungle Book while grooving on ragas and subcontinental crafts at the Fremont Main Library's Festival of India (Sat., 1 p.m.). ... If you like your poetry spiked with political satire, check out Garrett Murphy, Oakland-based author of None Dare Call It Making Sense in an American Lesson. He and Marianne Robinson headline a night of open readings at the downtown Berkeley Pegasus (Mon., 7 p.m.). ... Pointy ears are a plus when playing the Lord of the Rings trading-card game: Join the ongoing quest at Borders Milpitas (Mon., 7 p.m.). ... With ten poetry collections in her CV, award-winner C.D. Wright has a heck of a lot of work from which to read aloud at Soda Activity Center, St. Mary's College (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). ... If worldwide anti-Americanism makes you reluctant to leave the country, savor a new anthology of travel-gone-wrong tales whose contributors include Anne Lamott, Dave Barry, and Calvin Trillin. Co-editor Larry Habegger reads from Hyenas Laughed at Me and Now I Know Why at Easy Going (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). ... But if far-flung borders still summon you, join Diesel's International Book Club, which meets today to discuss Amitav Ghosh's historical novel The Glass Palace. Set in Burma, it's the tale of a kingdom destroyed, its royal family exiled (Tue., 7:30 p.m.) -- Anneli Rufus


Bobbing Four

Twenty years of Bobs in Berkeley

When they started out, the Bobs' body percussion and strictly a cappella arrangements ran completely counter to the prevailing synth fetish. But somehow the Bay Area quartet was totally in the new wave spirit. Maybe it was its iconoclastic reimaginings of sacred cows, like "Helter Skelter." Maybe it was that its version of the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" was even more disconcerting than the original. Maybe it was just that the four were so self-consciously goofy, as opposed to the archetypal new wave bands, who seemed to have no idea when they were being goofy. Whatever the reason, the Bobs have persevered, with ten studio albums of originals and covers under their belts, and a twenty-year retrospective released last month. They bring their human drum machines, trumpets, and what-all to the Freight & Salvage, 1111 Addison St. in Berkeley, tonight (8 p.m.), with Bob Malone opening up. Tickets cost $18.50 in advance, $19.50 at the door. Info: 510-548-1761 or -- Stefanie Kalem

WED 11/26


This time of year, everybody makes choices. Family or friends; give or receive; turkey or Tofurky; celebrate the winter solstice or take advantage of the last three shopping days; the child in the manger or the miracle of the Maccabees. But c'mon, now -- never mind all that. Here's what you really should be worrying about: apple or pumpkin; pecan or sweet potato; apple cranberry or blackberry. That's what Uhuru Holiday Pies is offering for your festivilicious pleasure this season. And the pies are baked by volunteers, with all proceeds going toward the research, publishing, seminars, and other community programs of the African People's Education and Defense Fund, so even if Dr. Atkins is frowning at you from his scrawny cloud, there will be far weightier spirits giving you the karmic right-of-way. Pies cost between $8 and $15, and can be ordered from 510-625-1106 (also the line to call for volunteer opportunities), or from -- Stefanie Kalem


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