bay area

Lil Debbie’s New EP, Home Grown, Is An Ode To Weed

LA Weekly

IMG_3210 It’s Friday night, a little after 10:30, and I’m hoofing it through Hollywood to a spot called Las Palmas where Lil Debbie is premiering her new EP, Home Grown. There are stragglers hanging out front and they’re all young, definitely not over the age of 25, some of them probably not even over 21, which I assume is why they are hanging outside to begin with. Because that’s the thing about rap and hip-hop shows: They’re always mired with youngins.

The last — and only — time I saw Lil Debbie was back in 2013 at a place called Venue in downtown Oakland. The Venue is one of those multi-use spaces with a stage and a bar and lots of floor space, and I remember being impressed with the size of the room when I got there. Impressed because I didn’t know much about Lil Debbie, other than the fact that she was in the White Girl Mob, and impressed because I hadn’t been to a rap show since high school.

V-Nasty was there, and probably Kreayshawn, too, but all I can remember is Lil Debbie strutting across the stage in a pair of silk boxer shorts, gesticulating and waving the mic around. Her tiny, 5’2″ frame was a mere wisp compared to V-Nasty, and yet she was just as fierce, just as tough. The rest of the night is a blur — let’s be honest, I probably drank one too many glasses of Moscato — but I remember watching her perform as if it were yesterday.

(Click here to read more)

Time For A Typewriter Renaissance?

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Salon

IT WAS 4 P.M. ON A THURSDAY, two hours until the end of Jesse Banuelos’ workday. He was standing behind the front counter of Berkeley Typewriter, his trademark green apron tied around his waist. A dozen broken typewriters — some electric, but most of them manual – were stacked in a corner on the brown linoleum floor.

Forty years ago, the shop was at the top of its game. But during the ’90s, as computers became more affordable, fewer customers bought typewriters or needed them repaired. Many typewriter stores went out of business. Berkeley Typewriter laid off some staff and managed to remain open by offering services like printer, photocopier and fax repair. Banuelos is the store’s only remaining technician who knows how to fix typewriters. He never learned how to type on a computer and for a time he worried that the typewriter industry would soon disappear.

He was wrong. In the last few years, both typewriter sales and repairs have increased at the store. Berkeley Typewriter experienced an increase in overall sales in 2011, moving about two or three a week. It’s not like the olden days, Banuelos said, but it’s enough.

Most of the typewriters that he sells or takes in are manual machines made between the early 1900s and the 1960s. The dozen or so brands displayed in Banuelos’ front window read like a row of multicolored tombstones: Royal, Remington, Underwood, Smith-Corona, Olivetti, Corona, Adler, Oliver.

(Click here to read more)

After Oakland Hills Fire, Residents Build Off-The-Wall Homes

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on October 19, 2011–

 

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Robert Pennell shifted the gear to neutral and parked the car along the side of the road. “There,” he said, pointing out the open window to a cluster of houses across the street. “That one is modern and the one next to it is traditional. Then you have a contemporary California ranch style house and over there you have an English Tudor.”

A partner at Jarvis Architects, Pennell navigates the narrow hillside streets with an ease that comes from years of driving through and working on the homes in this post-fire destroyed Oakland Hills neighborhood.  Although there are some trees, they are young and sparse, and the streets are drenched in sun, causing Pennell to squint behind his gold-rimmed sunglasses.  It wasn’t just the houses that burned, he said—much of the vegetation, including the canopy of trees that once shaded the streets in this sleepy, secluded neighborhood, were burned, too. (Click here to read more)

Jennifer LeBarre Makes Sure That Oakland Students Get A Healthy Lunch

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The bell rings— a prolonged buzzing signaling the end of class.

Attention students: lunch is being served in the cafeteria, announces a female voice over the intercom. Lunch is being served in the cafeteria. There’s chicken wings and fries, pizza and fries, and salad bar.

Within moments, hordes of students come rushing into the Oakland Tech cafeteria, sidling up in line in front of the kitchen and dropping their backpacks and jackets off at one of the circular red tables. You can tell they’re hungry. They joke and they jostle and some try to cut ahead in line by joining up with their friends.  Pizza and hot wings are popular entrees, as evidenced by their almost daily appearance on the menu—but today’s piece de resistance is the big pile of strawberries in the salad bar.

“Hey, hey, hey! Only four strawberries a person,” says Sharif Patterson, a transitional trainer for the special-needs students, who’s volunteered to watch over the salad bar today.   And next to her, arms folded, dressed entirely in purple, is Jennifer LeBarre, the director of nutrition services for the Oakland Unified School District, who is on a site visit at Oakland Tech this Wednesday afternoon.

“Every week I just go out and I try to get to as many schools as I can,” she says. “It’s one thing to be at the desk and hear from people, but I really want to see how things are operating.”

(Click here to read more)

Beats Antique

The groudbreaking Bay Area trio is using music to connect global cultures.

SF Weekly (Cover Story)

feature4-640x480“Welcome home,” says a girl with a back tattoo, snaking her arms in the air.

I’m standing in the pit of the Fox Theater in Oakland on a Saturday night in December, waiting for the electronic world-fusion band Beats Antique to take the stage. The venue, with a capacity of 2,800, is packed with people wearing yoga pants, utility belts, sombreros, and crystal necklaces. Whiffs of weed, patchouli, and peppermint are everywhere.

It’s the kind of crowd where random high-fives are doled out, and I overhear clips of conversations about Renaissance Faire-themed weddings, the best stretches to do in the morning, and whether or not “these are drugs or just pills.” In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think I was at a Burning Man party.

The guy to my right, a techie from S.F. who’s wearing a zip-up fleece jacket, tells me he rode BART in to see the band, which he’s never before seen live but has been listening to since 2012. Earlier, I met a throng of women clad in flared pants and adhesive gold tattoos who had flown in from Boston just for the show.

“They’re my favorite band of all time,” one of them tells me, before being interrupted by a friend who brags about liking Beats Antique “since high school.”

Eventually, the lights dim and a hush falls over the crowd as a woman with long, dark hair, smeared eyeliner, and a gold bra with tassels on the nipples takes the stage. She’s Zoe Jakes, Beats Antique’s principal dancer, and she’s carrying a glowing golden ball of twine, just as she does on the cover of their most recent album, Shadowbox. The ball of light casts shadows across Jakes’ face as she dances in the darkness, and the beginnings of an Indian raga, created by the other two members of Beats Antique — Tommy Cappel and David Satori — peal throughout the room.

Ten minutes in, and Jakes is still performing, her gestures and movements mirroring the song’s changing tempos. As strobes of red light beam down from the rafters, the bass picks up, careening into a full-fledged gallop, and Jakes starts spinning in circles, the ball extended horizontally in front of her.

When the bass dies down, Jakes stops spinning and slips backstage while Satori addresses the audience.

“It’s good to be home,” the bespectacled musician says, picking up the violin. “We love you, Oakland.” (Click here to read more)

Another One Bites the Dust … Sorta

The Bay Area loses HBK rapper Iamsu! to Atlanta, but he promises he’ll be back.

SF Weekly

music1-1In the last few years, a hot topic of conversation has been the mass exodus of musicians leaving the Bay Area for other locales, thanks to increased living costs, a shrinking artist’s community, and the infiltration of tech. SF Weekly covered the epidemic in a 2014 cover story, John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall discussed their decision to leave San Francisco for Los Angeles with Pitchfork, and, earlier this year, SPIN published a tome about the creative greats who have left our region.

And now another Bay Area artist has decided to move on: the nouveau-hyphy rapper and HBK Gang founder, Iamsu!

When I reach the 6-foot 4-inch emcee (born Sudan Williams) by phone on a Wednesday afternoon, he tells me that he’s in the process of moving into his newly purchased, six-bedroom, five-bathroom, three-story house in Atlanta.

“I just got checked for termites, I got all my locks changed, and I set up my cable and my internet today,” he tells me. “I also talked to 2 Chainz, and he’s going to help me build a studio in my house.”

Only a few days prior, the multi-talented 27-year-old — who, in addition to rapping, also sings and produces — signed the papers for the house, which he purchased from his grandmother’s best friend after she decided to move when her husband died.

“Me and my mom talked about it,” he tells me, “and we thought it was a good idea.” (Click here to read more)

Five Bay Area Summer Camps for Grown-Ups

SF Weekly

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If it weren’t for summer camp, I would have never learned how to make a daisy wreath or shoot a bow and arrow. Both surfing and sewing would be foreign to me, and I’d never have starred in Annie: The Musical either. But all of these things did happen — thanks in large part to my parents, who were too busy to watch my sister and me during the week, and dumped us off at summer camp instead — and I’m better for it.

If you missed out on creating your own fond memories of summer camp as a youth, here’s your chance to make up for it. There are a number of camps geared toward grown-ups hoping to recreate those halcyon days (and an estimated one million adults attend them each year, according to the American Camp Association).

Whether you’re craving a bit of nature, a bite of campfire-roasted s’mores, or a night’s rest in a bunk bed, there are plenty of opportunities around the Bay Area to let your inner kid out this summer. Here are our top five picks. (Click here to read more)

City Council Meets To Discuss Occupy Oakland Camp

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on November 4, 2011–

 

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The first thing the crowd noticed at the Thursday night Occupy Oakland City Council meeting was the table piled with signs, shields, and protective gear that police had taken from demonstrators during Wednesday’s Occupy Oakland-led strike. “They’re bringing in signs and stuff. Really? Oh my God,” said Ishua Bnjoube, an unemployed Occupy Oakland demonstrator who was leaning against the back wall of the Council Chamber. “This is going to be really interesting.”

The meeting, which began a little after 5:30 pm and continued until 11 pm, was held to discuss recent events pertaining to Occupy Oakland, notably the vandalism and property damage that occurred late Wednesday night, when protesters clashed in the street with police officers. Almost 150 people signed up to speak before the council.

All eight city council members were present at the meeting, although Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan (District 2) and Mayor Jean Quan arrived roughly an hour late. By the time the meeting began, a couple hundred people had packed into the council chambers. The extra screening rooms on the first floor of City Hall were also used to accommodate the crowd.

During the first speaker session of the council meeting, a majority of speakers decried the mayor’s, city council’s, and police department’s treatment of the Occupy Oakland camp and its supporters since the group’s initial eviction from Frank Ogawa Plaza in late October. (Click here to read more)

Actual Cafe’s owner raising funds to open Victory Burger, a burger stand next door

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IT’S LUNCHTIME AND YOU’RE HUNGRY. “Hamburger,” your stomach growls at you.

OK, you’ll get a hamburger—a simple, inexpensive, easy to eat sandwich. You want something substantial; a hamburger made from quality ingredients and grilled to perfection, not like the ones served at North Oakland’s fast food joints. But where can you get one like that?

If you’re anything like Sal Bednarz, the owner of Actual Café, you’ve been in this situation before. “I love burgers, but most of the burgers around here are just not that interesting,” Bednarz said on a recent Wednesday morning. “The good burgers, of which there a few, are almost all fine dining white tablecloth $15 burgers.”

This, he said, has to change. Good burgers at a reasonable price should not be so difficult to find. Not only are they  an American staple food, but their mere existence stems from the fact that they are inexpensive. Hamburgers are a product of the industrial revolution, invented to feed the growing masses of people who had little time to both cook and consume their food. And people today, Bednarz reasoned, are not that much different. “We, as a society here in Oakland today, like our food,” he said. “But we don’t always want to take a half a day and fifty bucks to go eat it.”

His solution? Victory Burger. Slated to open next fall, Victory Burger, Bednarz’s latest culinary endeavor, will be, as he said, “a casual experience where you can still get a really good burger.” It will be located around the corner from—or, depending on how you look at it, behind—Bednarz’s other business on San Pablo Avenue, Actual Café, and will be “more like a food truck without wheels,” he said, albeit one with plenty of outdoor seating.

The plans for Victory Burger started last fall, but Bednarz, who has lived in Oakland for the last 22 years, said that the idea has always been in the back of his mind. “This neighborhood is just lacking in food options,” he said. “I live four blocks away and just so many nights when I don’t feel like cooking, there’s no place to go.”

(Click here to read more)

Oakland biking group Fix Without Dix puts on a heated alley cat race

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on August 30, 2011–

 

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Mikey Hodgson and Cecilia Lanyon are early.

“Well, technically we’re on time,” says Hodgson as he surveys the tree-lined square outside of the Lake Merritt BART station in downtown Oakland.

It’s empty. Hodgson and Lanyon are the first to arrive. They wheel their bikes over to a low brick wall and sit down. It’s 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon and the sun beats down mercilessly. Sweat pools beneath Hodgson’s grey beanie and Lanyon presses a can of Diet Coke against her cheek to cool down.

To pass the time, they talk. Hodgson tells her about how he brought his Doberman into a pizza joint last night, but admits that he can’t remember much else because he drank so much that he blacked out. They both confess to having painful hangovers, and say that neither of them got more than four hours of sleep.

“But I had coffee. Lots and lots of coffee,” says Lanyon whose eyes are still caked with last night’s shadow and mascara.

“Me too,” says her friend. “And a super taco from the Mexican market on the corner.”

You wouldn’t know it from looking at them, but Hodgson and Lanyon are about to compete in a 30-mile bike race. They’re not wearing helmets or cycling shoes or moisture-absorbing fabrics. But they do have bikes—which is all that is required.

“I’m ready to race,” Hodgson declares, stubbing out his second cigarette. “I’m ready to go. And I’m gonna win. I seriously think I can get first place this time.”

(Click here to read more)

At open house on redesign of Lake Merritt BART area, talk of bike lanes, security improvements

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on September 13, 2011–

 

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Dave Campbell, the program coordinator for the East Bay Bike Coalition, wants wider bike lanes, and Alisha Tran from Asian Health Services wants improved safety measures on the streets. Mark Shimamoto from the Buddhist Church of Oakland wants a community center for Madison Square Park, but Laney College student Valerie Stout would rather have more parking spaces. The demands of the community are diverse—now it’s just a matter of which improvements city officials will choose to implement first in the redevelopment of the Lake Merritt BART station neighborhood.

“It’s a question of priorities and figuring out what the most important ones are,” said Ed Manasse, the strategic planning director for the City of Oakland, who helped organize the open house for the redevelopment project on Monday evening in the Laney College Student Center. “Everyone can agree on changing Streets X, Y, and Z, but which ones do you focus on first?”

In 2009, the City of Oakland, BART and the Peralta Community College District received a grant of over $1 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments to create a plan for redeveloping the area around the Lake Merritt BART station. The project focuses on an area a half-mile across which includes many downtown neighborhoods and institutions—Chinatown, Laney and Peralta Colleges, Madison Square and Chinese Garden Parks, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Lake Merritt Estuary. The redevelopment plan would make changes to land use, buildings, design, circulation, streetscapes, the BART station, parks, and public spaces in the area.

The goal of the project, said Manasse, is not only to improve and redevelop the area as a whole, but to do so in a way that appeals to the community members and groups that use the area. “After all,” he said, “they’re going to be the ones who live, work, shop, and play in that area on a daily basis.”

(Click here to read more)

City Administrator’s Office: Occupy Oakland Strike Was “Primarily Peaceful”

–Published on OaklandNorth.net on November 3, 2011–

Wednesday’s Occupy Oakland general strike began at 9 am and continued until early the next morning. According to the City Administrator’s Office, the demonstrations were “primarily peaceful protests with some isolated incidents of violence and vandalism.” Nearly 10,000 people took part in the protests, 300 of which were teachers from the Oakland Unified School District, said Troy Flint, Director of Public Relations for OUSD. From 7 am to midnight, there were no arrests and the general strike consisted of mostly marches, rallies, and music performances.

However, after midnight, a number of isolated incidents occurred throughout the area, including property vandalism, lighting fires, and police assaults. A total of 80 preliminary arrests were made, and five civilians and three police officers were injured, according to the City Administrator’s Office website. Tear gas and beanbags were then used to motivate protesters to leave the area.

A substantial number of businesses were vandalized or sprayed with graffiti throughout the day. According to the City Administrator’s Office, Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Whole Foods Market were vandalized in the afternoon, incurring damages such as broken windows and tagging, followed by more buildings that evening. Buildings at 150 and 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, as well as the BART entrance at Broadway and 12th Street, were tagged with graffiti, and the windows of Tully’s Coffee, the ground floor of City Hall, the Oakland Police Department, and the Cypress Security offices in the plaza were broken. Protesters also removed 30 square feet of paving stones (about 70 stones) from Frank Ogawa Plaza near the fountain.

(Click here to read more)

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