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B_TTRWXUhX]VU^a 4]S[TbbFPa Afghanistan and deathâ€™s long haul
By Norman Solomon
n the last night of August, the president used an Oval Office speech to boost a policy of perpetual war. Hours later, the New York Times front page offered a credulous gloss for the end of â€œthe seven-year American combat mission in Iraq.â€? The first sentence of the coverage described the speech as saying â€œthat it is now time to turn to pressing problems at home.â€? The story went on to assert that Obama â€œused the moment to emphasize that he sees his primary job as addressing the weak economy and other domestic issuesâ€”and to make clear that he intends to begin disengaging from the war in Afghanistan next summer.â€? But the speech gave no real indication of a shift in priorities from making war to creating jobs. And the oratory â€œmade clearâ€? only the repetition of vague vows to â€œbeginâ€? disengaging from the Afghanistan war next summer. In fact, top administration officials have been signaling that only token military withdrawals are apt to occur in mid-2011, and Obama said nothing to the contrary. While now trumpeting the nobility of an Iraq war effort that heâ€™d initially disparaged as â€œdumb,â€? Mr. Obama is polishing a halo over the Afghanistan war, which he touts as very smart. In the process, the Oval Office speech declared that every U.S. war, no matter how mendacious or horrific, is worthy of veneration. Obama closed the speech with a tribute to â€œan unbroken line of heroesâ€? stretching â€œfrom Khe Sanh to Kandaharâ€”Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own.â€? His reference to the famous U.S. military outpost in South Vietnam was a chilling expression of affinity for another march of folly. With his commitment to war in Afghanistan, President Obama is not only on the wrong side of history; he is also now propagating an exculpatory view of any and all U.S. war efforts, as if the immoral can become the magnificent by virtue of patriotic alchemy. A century ago, William Dean Howells wrote, â€œWhat a thing it is to have a country that canâ€™t be wrong, but if it is, is right anyway!â€? During the presidency of George W. Bush, â€œthe war on terrorâ€? served as a rationale for establishing warfare as a perennial necessity. The Obama administration may have shelved the phrase, but the basic underlying rationales are firmly in place. With American troop levels in Afghanistan near 100,000, top U.S. officials are ramping up rhetoric about â€œtaking the fight toâ€? the evildoers. The day before the Oval Office speech, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs talked to reporters about â€œwhat this drawdown
means to our national security efforts in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia and around the world as we take the fight to al Qaida.â€? The next morning, Obama declared at Fort Bliss, â€œA lot of families are now being touched in Afghanistan. Weâ€™ve seen casualties go up because weâ€™re taking the fight to al Qaida and the Taliban and their allies.â€? And, for good measure, Obama added that â€œnow, under the command of Gen. Petraeus, we have the troops who are there in a position to start taking the fight to the terrorists.â€? If, nine years after 9-11, we are supposed to believe that U.S. forces can now â€œstartâ€? taking the fight to â€œthe terrorists,â€? this is truly war without end. And thatâ€™s the idea. Nearly eight years ago, in November 2002, retired U.S. Army general William Odom appeared on C-SPANâ€™s Washington Journal program and told viewers, â€œTerrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. Itâ€™s a tactic. Itâ€™s about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect weâ€™re going to win that war. Weâ€™re not going to win the war on terrorism.â€? With his Aug. 31 speech, Obama became explicit about the relationship between reduced troop levels in Iraq and escalation in Afghanistan. â€œWe will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaida, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists,â€? he said. â€œAnd because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.â€? This is the approach of endless war. While Obama was declaring that â€œour most urgent task is to restore our economy and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work,â€? I went to a National Priorities Project webpage and looked at cost-of-war counters spinning like odometers in manic overdrive. According to the Cost of War website, the figures for the fighting in Afghanistan, already above $329 billion, are now spinning much faster than the ones for war in Iraq. One day in March 1969, a Nobel Prizeâ€“ winning biologist spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. â€œOur government,â€? George Wald said, â€œhas become preoccupied with death, with the business of killing and being killed.â€? More than four decades later, how much has really changed? Norman Solomon is the author of many books including â€˜War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.â€™ He is cochair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign, launched by Progressive Democrats of America. Open Mic is a weekly feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 700 words considered for publication, write email@example.com.
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?A>>5>5=>C78=6 Iâ€™m pleased to read that there are people researching into the â€œpsiâ€? abilities of us humans (â€œEntangled Atoms,â€? Aug. 25). Although I consider myself a hardcore skeptic, I have experienced phenomena that are â€œweirdâ€? from the point of view of my logical mind. Although I do not exclude the possibility of discovering a totally rational explanation for those occurrences at a later time in my life, I also donâ€™t exclude the possibility that there is no such explanation at all. I donâ€™t consider myself by any means as having many psi abilities. That might be the reason why the subject is not interesting enough for me to get
into it. What does interest me is our subjective reaction to such phenomenon. As it was pointed out, proof that our belief may be wrong often has the opposite effect of strengthening our belief, which I find quite interesting. Basically, our primitive emotional thirst for predictability and control doesnâ€™t like unexplainable phenomena. Thanks for a breath of fresh air in a world seemingly stuck in believing anythingâ€”whether itâ€™s common sense to do so or notâ€”that gives us the feeling of security at the expense of getting closer to the truth.
7070707070707070707070 Very funny, but sorryâ€”parapsychology is whoowhoo, it does not exist, and all of this guyâ€™s hoping that it will wonâ€™t make it happen. (â€œAll those who believe in telekinesis, raise my right hand!â€?) Meditation is hooey, it does nothing, like prayer does nothing. And he thinks he understands quantum mechanics, ha ha ha ha ha. This guy is a mad scientist. The article did make me laugh, so I guess it has some valueâ€”just not scientific.
4E4AHC78=68B2>=B28>DB Yes, the universe is conscious. Healer Dennis Adams demonstrated many aspects of the holographic universe under scientific conditions years ago in the experiments at several labs in Southern California. People need to become aware that everything is consciousâ€”and sometimes more than we are at times!
=>C4>5B0C8A4 We are leaving Iraq! Yeah, whoooo! Just like Obama promised in the 2008 election! Wow, I knew Obama could save this world! He is truly doing it. His campaign promise is real! I am so relieved that I wasnâ€™t hoodwinked. He is God. Wow. I love Obama. Everything that I was promised I got. We are leaving Iraq. I guess that leaving 50,000 noncombat troops behind to die isnâ€™t that bad.
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Robert Bulterman installs a 20-watt solar panel system at a Central Coast farm. Sonoma County is the only participating county that still supports PACE.
Sonoma County sues to keep solar program going By Curtis Cartier
obert Bulterman never counted on PACE to save his business. The 46-year-old electrician and solar technician, like a lot of greencollar workers, had admittedly held high hopes that the Property Assessed Clean Energy Program would infuse the overcrowded sustainable-energy industry with a slew of much-needed jobs. But to count on it doing so, he says, would have been â€œjust plain stupid.â€? As it turns out, Bultermanâ€™s skepticism was well-founded.
â€œWhen I heard PACE got put on hold, I just thought, â€˜I knew it,â€™â€? he says from the driverâ€™s seat of his white Chevy Cheyenne utility truck en route to one of the few solar jobs he was able to land in the ruthless Central Coast solar market. â€œWhen it takes offâ€”if it takes offâ€”I think it could quadruple my business, and there would be enough to go around. But Iâ€™m not going to assume thatâ€™ll happen.â€? â€œPACEâ€? is a general term used for a host of different alternative-energy financing schemes that evolved from a program pioneered in Berkeley in 2008 and which are
now being replicated in 22 states nationwide. Indeed, the programs are so promising that the Obama administration has committed $150 million in stimulus money to help them get off the ground. Under a PACE program, a homeowner who wants to buy green technology like solar panels but canâ€™t qualify for a bank loan for the $15,000 to $30,000 needed for a typical system can receive funding from a local municipality. The homeowner then pays back the money, with interest, over a 20plus-year time frame through property taxes. The plan, which attaches a tax lien on % -
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the property itself instead of loan debt on the individual, seemed the perfect way to get everyoneâ€”regardless of home equity or creditâ€”on the path toward green energy use. In Sonoma County, like the 13 other counties in California that were looking to participate, the program had been approved by local leaders and was just about to start accepting applications when word came down in early July that the effort would be put on indefinite hold. On July 27, Sonoma County sued to protect the right to operate its program. The reason for the hang-up was that government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with their regulatory body, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), backed out of supporting the program over concerns that the tax liens would take precedence over the mortgage loans in the event of foreclosureâ€” in short, that a homeowner who defaulted on a home loan would technically have to pay off his PACE lien before paying off his mortgage. The result? Freaked-out lenders. The companies have since vowed not to grant any loans for properties that participate in PACE. â€œPACE loans are unlike routine tax assessments and pose unusual and difficult risk-management challenges for lenders, servicers and mortgage securities investors,â€? reads a statement released July 6 by the FHFA. â€œ[These] programs present significant safety and soundness concerns that must be addressed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks.â€? Because Fannie and Freddie collectively own or guarantee roughly half of all U.S. mortgages, their participation was crucial to the programsâ€™ success. Since the dust-up, gubernatorial candidate and California Attorney General Jerry Brown has filed suitâ€”in addition to the county of Sonoma â€”against the mortgage corporations and the FHFA, with Brown saying that â€œFannie Mae and Freddie Mac received enormous federal bailouts, but now theyâ€™re throwing up impermeable barriers to bank lending that creates jobs, stimulates the economy and boosts clean energy.â€? The heart of the legal argument that now awaits lies in whether the PACE tax liens are legally considered loans, as Fannie and Freddie contend, or assessments, as Brown and the various participating counties insist they are. â€œThese programs involve assessments, not loans, and there are decades of law that define assessments,â€? says Liz Yager, program manager for the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP), the only program in California to keep running despite the threats from Fannie, Freddie and FHFA. â€œEvery time someone calls it a â€˜loanâ€™ itâ€™s misleading.â€?
Little Fish, Big Pond There is a love-hate relationship between green technology installers and local PACE
programs. On one hand, the promise of government cash and tax rebates for buying expensive retrofits like solar panels has been key in bringing in business for workers like Bulterman, and PACE would no doubt have been the biggest draw yet.
An overcrowded green job market has made it â€˜cutthroat beyond belief.â€™
On the other hand, however, that same potential gravy train has also brought an influx of prospecting workersâ€”some strictly solar-specialized, others from a host of trades like roofers, carpenters, electricians and general contractorsâ€”that has overcrowded the local green job market, and, as one installer says, made it â€œcutthroat beyond belief.â€? As word of PACE spread, installers and wholesalers fought the impression that it would be a â€œsilver bulletâ€? for customers who have been content to wait to go solar until the sweetest deal comes along. â€œPeople are always waiting for the next big deal for solar, even though a lot of them could get good loans by just going to the bank. Plus, they wouldnâ€™t have to pay the 7, 8 or 9 percent interest that [PACE] programs quote,â€? says Peter Putt of Suns Up Solar, based in Santa Cruz. â€œThere are so many players in the solar market that just because thereâ€™s another avenue for financing doesnâ€™t mean the little guys are going to all of a sudden be making a bunch of money.â€? Even in Sonoma County, where the PACE program is still running, the number of solar jobs available is less than the myriad workers on hand to do them. Yager says, however, that despite the rocky start, support for the plan remains strong, and that Sonoma County is happy to stand up to big mortgage companies that are looking to ruin the party. â€œOur board of supervisors decided to keep the lights on and stand up for SCEIP,â€? she says. â€œThere is a huge grassroots movement around this. Weâ€™re confident there will be a resolution.â€? In the meantime, Bulterman says heâ€™ll keep competing with the 10 to 15 other solar installers who bid on the same jobs he does, and that heâ€™ll â€œtake whatever work I can get.â€? Back in his truck, the electrician takes a phone call from a fellow installer whom he hires whenever he needs the extra help. â€œHey, Robin. Yeah, things are slow. You know how it is,â€? he says. â€œIf I manage to get some more work somehow, though, Iâ€™ll have some for you.â€? Turning toward me, he continues: â€œThere you go. Thatâ€™s one more guy that could be working if PACE went through.â€?
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Is the mock-doc mashup the richest genre yet? By Daedalus Howell
he cross pitch for The Last Exorcism must have gone something like this: The Exorcist meets Rosemaryâ€™s Baby in the style of, what the hell, This Is Spinal Tap. (Insert record scratch sound here.) How writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland managed to get a feature film deal rather than a tongue-lashing by development executives is likely the result of a trend thatâ€™s risen in the industry of late: the mixing of two genres into a profitable subgenre, the horror mockumentary. The mockumentary formâ€” that is, a narrative film in the trappings of a nonfictional documentaryâ€”traces its roots to the â€œSwiss Spaghetti Harvest,â€? an April Foolâ€™s Day hoax perpetrated by BBC news producers in 1957, which depicted pasta farmers plucking spaghetti noodles from trees. Later, Christopher Guest and company would perfect the genre, most famously with the Rob Reinerâ€“directed mockrockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, followed by the Guestdirected Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Meanwhile, television hybridized the genre with reality shows and birthed franchises such as The Office and newer iterations like Parks and Rec. Clearly, the mock-genre works for comedy, but does it work for horror? Yes. The forerunner to the recent spate of horror mock-docs is, of course, 1999â€™s Blair Witch Project, which elevated shaky, camcorder cinematography to an art, or at least an acceptable idiom, and proved that fake horror flicks can be real earners. To date, the indie flick has made $240 millionâ€”4,000 times its $60,000 budget. It also spawned a franchise of less successful sequels as well as innumerable knock-offs and parodies such as the Tony Blair Witch Project and The Blair Witch Project with Linda Blair, the star of the proto-exorcism film The Exorcist. A more recent winner in the subgenre, Paranormal Activity, improved the earnings ratio. Released last year, the film has earned $108 million thus far, which is nearly 10,000 times its budget of $11,000. Of course, high box office receipts doesnâ€™t necessarily equate into high art; however, it does account for the
slew of mock-horror-docs coming to a multiplex near you, including The Last Exorcism, in which a charlatan exorcist attempts personal redemption by ridding a Southern school girl of a demon named Abalam. â€œI was so surprised when I saw The Last Exorcism, because Iâ€™ve been watching horror films all my life,â€? says the filmâ€™s star, Ashley Bell, 24, who plays 16-year-old Nell, a Louisiana girl who may or may not be possessed. She first saw her filmâ€™s antecedent, The Exorcist, when she was 10; at director Daniel Stammâ€™s behest, she watched its less popular sequels and then heeded his instruction: â€œDonâ€™t do that.â€? â€œDaniel would hint as to where to look at the camera and for how long, what to tell, what to lie about, what not to tell,â€? says Bell, whose performance as a wide-eyed innocent is the filmâ€™s greatest asset. â€œThe camera was really another character, and it was fun to kind of use it to manipulate the audience and play with it and against it.â€? Bellâ€™s sensitivity to the form added to her characterâ€™s on-camera verisimilitude. When â€œNellâ€? appears nervous during an on-camera interview, she easily endears herself to the audience, which makes it all the more creepy when sheâ€™s in a satanic trance. â€œAs youâ€™re watching it, itâ€™s as if youâ€™re in a 360 degree arena and donâ€™t know where the next attack is going to come from,â€? Bell observes. â€œYou always feel so vulnerable and so exposed, and I really like that.â€? Audiences apparently like it, too. The film, which offers little in the way of special effects, rudimentary costumes and only a handful of locations occupied by relatively new (read: cheap) faces onscreen, has made its $1.8 million budget back ten times over, earning $20 million in its first week of release. Though some critics have grumbled that the film isnâ€™t scary enough, itâ€™s likely scaring the shit out of Hollywood, which is used to padding salaries with outsized film budgets. Mock-doc or not, no one can mock the math, which will likely lead to the rolling of executive heads. For Hollywood, the real horror show is just beginning.
Mock-doc or not, no one can mock the math.
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E8=C;8:40= 46H?C80= â€˜Naturalâ€™ wines are just that.
C^cP[[h=PZTS Natural wines have just one ingredient: grapes By James Knight
ex, politics and religion are dicey subjects at any dinner table, but bring up â€œnatural wineâ€? with grapeindustry folks, and there might be real trouble. â€œNaturalâ€? is one of those deceptively innocent-sounding concepts thatâ€™s just as sure to instantly appeal to some as to throw others into a rage. â€œItâ€™s a loaded word,â€? admits Ian Becker, manager and buyer for San Franciscoâ€™s Arlequin Wine Merchant. â€œWeâ€™re aware of that.â€? If the designation sounds dated or more vague than â€œcertified biodynamic,â€? or even like something was lost in translation, it could be. It all started back in post-WWII France, when Beaujolais wine merchant Jules Chauvet was dismayed by the surfeit of chemicals used to farm grapes and mass-produce wine. He inspired a movement of natural-wine adherents who say that while the vineyard is a great place to start, organic is not enough. They want to take it to the cellar, turning back the clock on a century of winemaking advances. A succinct definition is offered across the bar at Terroir, a comfortably rustic lounge on
San Franciscoâ€™s Folsom Street with an exclusive focus on natural wines: theyâ€™re fermented without the addition of commercial yeast. A host of native yeast generally takes up residence on grape skin, creating a hazy â€œbloom.â€? When the grape is crushed, the yeast invades and dutifully converts its sugar into alcohol. Wineries add a single yeast species to accomplish this task, but Saccharomyces cerevisiae is available in a whole catalogue of substrains that produce more fruit character, ferment more slowly or can withstand higher alcohol before expiring, all depending on the varietal of grape and style of wine desired. For many winemakers, these options are indispensable to their craft. For natural wine adherents, itâ€™s a manipulation of natural processes that are best left alone. Manipulation is the bogey word of natural wine. Grapes are subjected to all kinds of unnecessary additives and machinery, the reasoning goes, in order to create unnaturally rich wines that will appeal to wine criticsâ€” Robert M. Parker, most of all. â€œEverything we do is manipulation,â€? counters winemaker Robert Rex. â€œPicking the grapes is manipulation. We pluck the leaves
from the vines to allow the grapes to ripen better. I would call that unnatural. I could go on.â€? Rex once sat down with colleagues with the goal of creating a natural wine society. But they could not even arrive at a satisfactory definition of the term. â€œAn unnatural wine would be one that is constructed from artificial f lavorings, coloring and chemicals, like Coca-Cola. I donâ€™t think there is any wine in the world like that. There is no such thing as an unnatural wine,â€? Rex adds. â€œInstead of arguing about semantics, letâ€™s get back to the wine itself,â€? Becker says, noting that events like San Franciscoâ€™s Natural Wine Week, which wrapped up its second annual series of tastings and restaurant events in August, are just opportunities to open a discussion. â€œWeâ€™re not saying, â€˜If you donâ€™t do this, youâ€™re doing it wrong.â€™ We just want to talk about the winemaking process. It brings people into the story of wine even more.â€? True, the story that wineries prefer to tell includes hand-picked grapes, â€œancient methodâ€? fermentations and handmade oak barrelsâ€”but never diammonium phosphate. It doesnâ€™t sound natural and it doesnâ€™t smell great either, but itâ€™s just yeast food that is supposedly eaten
up by the end of fermentation. When wineries tone down a wineâ€™s excessive alcohol using reverse-osmosis technology, they donâ€™t talk about that, either. Still, some in the ultra-premium wine business bristle at suggestions that their product is â€œunnatural.â€? Consumers are drawn to products that sound like they may be more healthful than the next, and an apparently guileless natural wine implies its antithesis: a nefarious trickster who dupes the unwary into drinking newfangled, â€œmanufacturedâ€? wine.
Natural winemakers turn back the clock on a century of winemaking advances. While this is currently about as much of a bother as a fruit f ly to the wine factories of the Central Valley, some critics cry foul, sensing the stink of sophomoric accusation, like when a high-minded vegan objects to the presence of organic, grass-fed burgers at a barbecue. When natural wine supporters exalt, â€œThis wine is made in the vineyard, not in a lab!â€? they do little to dispel such fears. Robert Rexâ€™s Deerfield Ranch wines are already conscientiously made with low sulfites to help avoid allergic reactions, and he claims that theyâ€™re free of many other substances often found in wine. â€œPeople think they are getting a more â€˜naturalâ€™ wine if it is not fined or filtered. This is nonsense,â€? he says. â€œUnfiltered wine is more likely to have bacteria of all sorts, and usually does. The bacteria is natural. Unfiltered wine can be more unstable and more likely to spoil.â€? Indeed, out of several French wines tasted at Terroir, some display aromas that experienced tasters might recognize as wine faults. In some cases, thatâ€™s simply the local style, says proprietor Luc Ertoran; thatâ€™s just how they do it in the Jura. There are only a few true natural wine practitioners in the North Bay, but they make wine more in line with California expectations (see Swirl, p19). Thus far largely an urban wine-bar phenomenon thatâ€™s also been critically worried by wine bloggers while Joe Merlot remains unaware of its existence, natural wine may have a chance in such hands. â€œItâ€™s not like itâ€™s some kind of communist-y movement,â€? Becker laughs. â€œIf you want to drink Two Buck Chuck, thatâ€™s fine. But there are a lot of other choices.â€?
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B0;8=80F8=42> ďŹ nd Kevin Kelley irrigating his vineyard with an ordinary watering can, but it doesnâ€™t take him long. Itâ€™s just one gangly grapevine poking out of a planter in front of the ofďŹ ce, in the shadow of looming, beige warehouses. An inauspicious atmosphere for one of wine countryâ€™s few practitioners of â€œnatural winemakingâ€?â€”or is it? The Natural Process Alliance has no problem eschewing the ďŹ‚ora and gewgaws that dress up the fronts of other wineriesâ€” other than this lonely little plant.
Kelley doesnâ€™t ďŹ t the bill of a wild-eyed wine reactionary. The young, clean-cut, UC Davisâ€“trained winemaker seems like he could just as well be a junior account manager making thoughtful conversation at the water cooler. Fascinated by fact that wine is a product that literally makes itself, he says he just wants to give it the right conditions, and watch what happensâ€”under a microscope. Grapes have everything they need: sugar, and ďŹ‚avor and aroma compounds in the skin, which hosts the yeast that makes it all go. Throw the switchâ€” crush the grapesâ€”and let â€™er rip. The NPA staff includes Hardy Wallace, the wine blogger from Georgia who won a one-year social media gig at Murphy-Goode. Now heâ€™s working the media here, as well as making milkman-type deliveries to Bay Area restaurants and bars. Wines produced by NPA are â€œbottledâ€? in stainless steel Kleen Kanteens. The blend changes from week to week, depending on the shifting moods of particular barrels, and Wallace picks up the empties the next time around. Kelley likes to say he practices â€œantique winemaking.â€? As for the â€œnatural wineâ€? debate, he says only, â€œOur books are open.â€? He wanted to add a short list to his labels, which read â€œIngredients: Grapes,â€? but the regulating agency nixed it, admonishing that thereâ€™s no way that wine can be made with grapes alone. A set of taps dispenses the current batch of NPA wines directly from refrigerated kegs, by the bottle or glass. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc received three different treatments: SB1 was pressed soon after crushing. Itâ€™s got fresh, butterscotch and golden apple aromas. SB2 soaked in its own skins for several days. Itâ€™s fullbodied, with GewĂźrztraminer-like tropical fruit. SB3 is the real weird sister: whole-skin fermented, like a red wine, itâ€™s loaded with guava, papaya fruit and reminiscent of nothing if not a carton of tropicalorange juice. Although cloudy, this wine punch cocktail is as fresh as next Friday. In a traditional glass bottle, Saliniaâ€™s 2006 Chardonnay ($45) is whole-cluster pressed, then goes into the barrel and is, as natural wine adherents love to say, â€œleft alone.â€? With typical aromas of butterscotch and toast, and melon fruit, the ďŹ nish is unexpectedly resinous, but tasty enough that, after opened, you wonâ€™t want to leave it alone for long. Salinia Wine Company, 3350 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa. Tasting room open Fridayâ€“Saturday, 10:30am to 6pm, or by appointment. 707.527.7063.
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Jeremiah Flynn, top left, and John Ferdico, bottom left, are arrayed with the authorâ€™s friends, one of whom boasts awesome skills.
?aTbT]c8\_TaUTRc â€˜Happy accidentsâ€™ define the new craze for lo-fi photography By Anna Schuessler
he summer of 2006, my last in high school, my mom gave me the task of filing all of our family photos. I spent those hot days in a cloud of dust, sifting through weathered shoeboxes full of photos of seemingly ancient events: my parentsâ€™ â€œbefore kidsâ€? adventures in Europe; my sisterâ€™s first time on a bike; my eighth grade dance. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by hundreds of grainy 3-by-5â€™s and negative strips, daunted by the sheer volume of a familyâ€™s worth of photos, I remembered the days of film. A time when you couldnâ€™t delete the picture of the bird that flew in front of Dadâ€™s face, when the flash robbed cousin Tim of his baby blues and gave him red devil eyes instead. When Iâ€™d finished my chore, a part of me longed for an era I thought was lost and gone forever, when one had to wait for shoddily composed, quickly snapped photos to come back from the lab.
My nostalgia has been gratified. Out-offocus, light-streaked photos have made a second entrance. But this time such photo faux pas as darkened edges and double exposures do not condemn a shot to the scrapbook hall of shame. Whole communities have sprung up around these â€œhappy accidentsâ€? and the lovable, crappy cameras that produce them. An entire genre of â€œtoyâ€? cameras, which are often no more than a plastic carriage with a single lens in a bulky, boxy shape, has taken flight. Holga, Diana, Lomoâ€”letâ€™s not forget Polaroid. All low-tech. But all the rage. For some reason.
Cheap Chic Aside from sharing strange but somehow charming names, the cameras that are making a comeback have more than a few things in common. Most of the models are made completely out of plastic, even the lens. Some operate on 120mm film, some have fixed lenses; all are inexpensive.
Holgas are adored for discrepancies in their plastic construction that allow light to leak into the body, often resulting in bursts of overexposed film. Both Holgas and Dianas are famous for their marginal field coverage and low-quality plastic lenses, which produce the much soughtafter vignetting, or blurred-edge look, and highly saturated color photos. In the 1980s, Holga cameras were massproduced and widely distributed to the Chinese public. Intended to bring photography to the working class in an affordable way, the camera slowly gained international popularity a few years after its introduction. Professional photographers appreciated the image abstraction Holgas produced, as well as their affordable price, which was as low as $15. Diana cameras predate the Holga and were brought into the United States from a Hong Kong plastic factory in the 1960s. They were widely used as cheap prizes for carnivals and fairs, and produced dreamy images with their soft focus. LOMO LC-Aâ€™s are Holgaâ€™s communist equivalent, developed in Russia during the â€™80s. '' THE BOHEMIAN
And, of course, thereâ€™s the Polaroid. First introduced in 1947, the camera, which instantly produced square photos with a white margin, had its heyday in the 1960s. Ever since Polaroid announced its decision to discontinue production of the film in 2008, though, the cameras have practically become an item of lore.
Film Flops In an age where digital rules, toy cameras and Polaroids should have no place. The images that digital cameras produce are ultra-crisp, and theyâ€™re only getting more exact. Arguably one of the best digital single-lens reflex cameras on the market, Canonâ€™s EOS D5 Mark II, boasts 21 megapixels, eight exposure modes and can snap a photo in 1/8,000th of a second. In contrast, Polaroid cameras tend to generate images that contain the equivalent of less than one megapixel. Digital images may be quickly uploaded onto a computer and emailed to every corner of the earth, while photos from film must still be processed, cropped and then scanned if one plans to share. For the amateur photographer, digital pictures are much more economical. Only the cream need be printed. But despite the hassles, low-definition film cameras, or at least their aesthetics, are holding their ownâ€”and perhaps even breaking new groundâ€”in the 21st century. The Lomographic Society International is a forum for all things toy camera, whether that entails writing about them, selling them or even selling accessories for them. Championing quick and simple snapshot photography, the group offers 10 â€œgolden rules.â€? The 10th one trumps all: â€œDonâ€™t worry about any rules.â€? The Hipstamatic iPhone application gives digital photos an old look, as if they were taken with a toy camera. The applicationâ€™s description reads that Hipstaprints, the applicationâ€™s resulting images, are â€œcharacterized by vignetting, blurring, oversaturation [and discoloration],â€? while the Hipstamatic itself â€œkeeps the quirks of shooting old-schoolâ€? with the option of switching the type of film, flash and lens used.
Butâ€”Why? We get that theyâ€™re crappy, we understand that theyâ€™re popular. But what exactly precipitates this shift in photographic trends? Jeremiah Flynn, of Jeremiahâ€™s Photo Corner in Santa Rosa, reports that this analog obsession has consumed nearly five of his eight years in photo retail. â€œItâ€™s shocking how much film weâ€™re selling,â€? he says. â€œIt seems like itâ€™s actually ramping up.â€? And while the standard 35mm film is still his leading seller, heâ€™s noticing that medium and
large format films, like those typically used with Holga and Diana cameras, are flying off the shelves like never before. The same is true of the Instax camera, Fujifilmâ€™s attempt at a new-age Polaroid, which alone ensures a healthy crowd around Jeremiahâ€™s small but thriving â€œtoy cameraâ€? wall. Customers for the Instax, Flynn says, are mostly â€œpeople who didnâ€™t have Polaroids as a kid, these 16-, 17-, 19-year-olds, and theyâ€™re coming in and theyâ€™re like, â€˜Wow! Look at this!â€™â€? One simple answer is trend. Tod Brilliant, a professional photographer who has been shooting Polaroid for some 10 years, says that instant film is, in some ways, a fashion accessory. â€œ[Polaroids] were such a hipster item, they were so Urban Outfitters,â€? he says. Indeed, the alternative-fashion retail store was among the first in the last decade to reintroduce Holgas to the masses. Of course, not everyone has a Holga from Urban Outfitters. Students of film photography are flea-market- and garagesale-savvy, but the effect is the same. These photographers are looking for older-looking instruments in the form of weathered plastic. Brilliant, who shoots in both digital and Polaroid, says, â€œI think I got hooked because it was such a cool object. I go out, I take my Nikon, and it takes great pictures, but itâ€™s not a cool object. Just the same damn thing everyone else has. If you have a camera that looks badass, why not use that?â€? Sure, following trends sucks. But in the end, who cares? â€œWhen your favorite band becomes popular, well, did you like them, or did you not like them?â€? Brilliant asks. For him, itâ€™s more about the camaraderie that instant photos foster. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of great community in it,â€? he says. â€œYouâ€™re out with your friends and youâ€™re just starting to take photos and you want to share that process with your friends. Itâ€™s not so geeky. Itâ€™s not like you take your digital camera and take a picture, and you go home and put it in your laptop. Youâ€™re out in a car, and you take it and pass [the Polaroid] to the driver, and thatâ€™s that.â€?
The Hi-Fi of Lo-Fi Thereâ€™s no denying that digital cameras yield excellent high-definition pictures, and do so with much less angst than their film-wasting counterparts. Perhaps itâ€™s the obsession with precision and efficiency that so often accompanies digital technology that makes digital photography feel inefficient. Sonoma State photography major Anna Tracy certainly sees the value of film. â€œThere are only 20 pictures on a roll of film,â€? she says. â€œYou want to be careful about what you take a picture of. You look around and make sure your composition is exactly what you want it to be before you take a picture.â€? Tracy, who previously worked primarily in digital media, took her first class in film photography in 2008 with Sonoma State and Santa Rosa Junior College photography instructor John Ferdico. Ferdico requires his students to shoot with Holgas, and, initially, Tracy was less than pleased about the process. â€œI was so angry,â€? she says. â€œI probably took about six rolls of film, and only two pictures turned out.â€? They later became her two
favorite photos and marked the beginning of her loyalty to film. She says, â€œI think photographers in general are a little more anal than a lot of other people in the art world, maybe a little controlling sometimes,â€? Tracy says. â€œEverything has a light meter, and itâ€™s very â€˜This is how it has to be done.â€™ [Holgas] kind of let you go a little bit. The fact that you really donâ€™t know how itâ€™s going to turn out, it lets you let go of it.â€? Ferdico himself found solace in Holgas at a time in his career when photography was exciting but overwhelming. â€œI enjoyed it because it was a refreshing change from worrying about stuff with photography,â€? he says. As an undergraduate art student, he bought his first Holga at a Kansas City dollar store in the 1980s. At around $20, Holgas are more than affordable, especially for photographers, who are prepared to pay many times over that price just for film. Tracy and Ferdico make it sound so easy, sacrificing to-the-very-pore exactness for the ')
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ability to capture a serendipitous moment. And really, does high-def mean true-to-life? â€œPolaroid is more like what you see,â€? says Brilliant. â€œYour eye canâ€™t focus on more than one space. Thatâ€™s what I really enjoy. To me, itâ€™s more real because itâ€™s less honest, which makes it more honest.â€? So blurry pictures with a tiny frame taken with a camera that canâ€™t effectively shoot an object more than 10 feet away evoke a heightened sense of verity? Can the human eye do much better? Brilliant rests his case.
Back to Basics For experienced photographers, meticulous visual detail and overly planned shots are not the only aspect of digital thatâ€™s bringing them down. Thereâ€™s the data, too. And just the thought of it bogs everyone down, even if weâ€™re not totally aware. â€œItâ€™s like a visual overload for me,â€? Tracy says. â€œI have probably 18 flash drives, full of digital photographs, just because I want to have them all backed up, but itâ€™s just so much to go through.â€? And for someone whoâ€™s trying to make a career out of photographs, this computerized burden can act as a hindrance to finding one shot among millions. Which is why Brilliant typically travels with only one lens when shooting with his digital camera. â€œI really enjoy being limited,â€? he says, â€œand right now we have so many choices with digital cameras.â€? Brilliant relates this camera craze to other trends that have reverted back to older media, such as the popularity of vinyl records. He says these movements operate on a more â€œhuman scaleâ€? and praises their down-to-earth feasibility. â€œI canâ€™t carry 4 million photos with me. I can carry 15 Polaroids,â€? he says.
So Bad Itâ€™s . . . Maybe these crazy, crappy-cameracarrying kids have something here. Sure, itâ€™s a trend. But itâ€™s a trend based on spontaneity and downsizing, which is, at best, a hopeful perspective and, at worst, an idealistic one. Ferdico, who has been teaching photography classes for over 12 years, also sees the interest in film as a desire for an authenticity in the art form, a yearning to know how it all works. â€œHereâ€™s this basic technology that provides the basis for all art forms,â€? says Ferdico. â€œAnd it is very much like pottery in that way. â€œPhotographs arenâ€™t only records, but theyâ€™re actually souvenirs,â€? he continues. â€œEvery time you take a picture, a physical part of the world is absorbed by the emulsion of the film. And then you carry that with you on the surface of the paper. As I learned how digital photography works, it seems to me, it disappears the moment that that light energy is encoded. You actually lost that tiny physical thing.â€? Maybe it is the physical thing that we hold on to, even in our minds. Are we going to remember the family portrait where every strand of hair is in place long after the flash driveâ€™s been misplaced? Does a photographer really learn from her mistakes unless the mistakes are tangible? Itâ€™s hard to pin it down, exactly. But I do know that those tiny physical things are not lost on me. As I write, I have Instax photos scattered all over my room. Film canisters fill my shelves. Last night, I sat on my bed, moving the small white frames around me and wondering which one of these crappy images could possibly be used to accompany this article. I realized I probably couldnâ€™t use anyâ€”they were just that bad. And that was OK.
?;0H8=6 Barbara Romaner as Alma and Johannes Silberschneider as Gustav Mahler in â€˜Couch.â€™
Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Fest covers a lot of territory By Richard von Busack
n reviving Percy Adlonâ€™s Bagdad Cafe, the 24th annual Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival has become the festival that says, â€œYes, fat chicks!â€? The festâ€™s schedule isnâ€™t quite solid yet, but we know where it is, so thatâ€™s a plus. It takes place over two counties and at locations as different as Round Pond Winery and the jewel-box-like Cameo Theater in St. Helena. Director Adlon and his gemĂźltlich, plussized Dietrich, Marianne Sagebrecht, cut a brief but memorable heyday in the mid-1980s. For a time, Adlon was German comedy, considered an oxymoron in those years between the Big War and the 1980s. Nineteen eightyeightâ€™s Bagdad Cafe is a fondly remembered film. The large and lovely Sagebrecht plays a hausfrau looking for Disneyland, stranded in the Mojave on whatâ€™s left of Route 66. There, she encounters a courtly cowboy (Jack Palance in a rare gentleman role) and a derelict cafe that needs a cook. Adlonâ€™s 1991 Salmonberries is set in Alaska, with K. D. Lang. Itâ€™s a similarly dry aquarium full of fish out of water; one remembers most the beguiling stained-glass effect of the sun coming through jars of pinkish-orange berry preserves. The film established Adlon as a wanderer and explorer, a bemused, comic version of Werner Herzog. Adlon and his son Felix are bringing their newest film, Mahler on the Couch, to the festival this year (Sept. 18 and 25). Here, the composer seeks out the aid of Freud as he tries to put his Bauhaus in order. The problem: Mahlerâ€™s straying wife, Alma (cue Tom Lehrerâ€™s song of the same name). The NSWCFF promotes both indoor and outdoor films, specializing in sunset movies in the cool of the evening in the vineyards. One of the draws is Ben Aff leckâ€™s
Southie crime drama The Town (Sept. 15), which pits John Hamm and wily Boston bank robber Aff leck against a miasma of Catholic guilt. (Speaking of C.G., Martin Sheen and son Emilio Estevez are signed up for closing night on Sept. 26.) Thereâ€™s a sharp and tangy left-wing counterpoint to the faux-chateau ambiance. The Balibo Conspiracy, aka Balibo (Sept. 19), starring Anthony LaPaglia, is introduced by SSU professor Peter Phillips of Project Censored fame. If you were Australian, youâ€™d know about this atrocity: the Kopassus (Indonesian Green Berets) took care of a quintet of Australian TV journalists in 1975 as they recorded the fighting in East Timor. Our electorate may be confused as to where Timor is, let alone East Timor, but the event is now being investigated as a war crime. One potential witness (as per Mr. Hitchensâ€™ book on the subject of the manâ€™s many misdeeds) is Henry Kissinger, whose machinations helped the Timorese invasion take place. Most liquefying, even in preview form, is The People Speak (date TBA), a sort of a film version of Howard Zinnâ€™s Peopleâ€™s History of America. Itâ€™s an all-star cast in staged dramatic readings from some of Zinnâ€™s gathered voices, including Bob Dylan (hopefully intelligible for the occasion). Speaking of poets, laureate Robert Haas will be on hand for a reading in front of John H. Healeyâ€™s documentary on Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (Sept. 20). The wine on hand at all venues, â€œbottled poetryâ€? like the billboard says, should take the rough edges off some of the more haphazard indie films that inevitably turn up for such occasions. The Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival runs at various venues Sept. 15â€“26. www.winecountryfilmfest.com.
5 local improv troupe favorites!
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Tickets on sale Sept22 1.877.874.MVFF
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‘‘A MESMERIZING BLEND- Chet OFNagel,DANCE , DRAMA AND ROMANCE.’’ THE DAILY CALLER
SAO PAULO INT’L FILM FESTIVAL PROVINCETOWN INT’L FILM FESTIVAL MAINE INT’L FILM FESTIVAL ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL OF DALLAS TORONTO INT’L FILM FESTIVAL SEATTLE INT’L FILM FESTIVAL
#### ! A MAGICAL EXPERIENCE “
YOU MUST NOT MISS.”
- Rex Reed, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER
3RD STREET CINEMA 620 Third Street, Santa Rosa (707) 522-0330
3q94D=4A ‘Mid-August Lunch’ kicks off the new semester at the Sonoma Film Institute. See listing, p38.
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Film capsules by Richard von Busack, Gretchen Giles, Caroline Osborn, Rothtana Ouch and Anna Schuessler.
N O R T H B AY M O V I E T I M E S www.sonomamovietimes.com www.marinmovietimes.com www.napamovietimes.com THE BOHEMIAN
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Blue in Green
Porno vs. Puritans
The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University still isnâ€™t officially open, but a fantastic series of no-cost lectures and performances led by SSU jazz director Doug Leibinger offers the public a sneak peek into both the new hall and the working mind of renowned jazz musicians each Wednesday this fall. Future performers include Lee Konitz and SlumGum, while this coming week sees angular pianist Denny Zeitlin and his acclaimed two-hour presentation â€œUnlocking the Creative Impulse: The Psychology of Improvisation.â€? Both a recording jazz artist and a practicing psychiatrist, Zeitlin bridges the two careers in this musical journey through the synapses of the improvising mind; expect humor, insight, mentally puzzling knowledge and incredible piano playing on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at the Green Music Center, Room 1029. 6539 Rohnert Park Expressway, Rohnert Park. 1pm. Free. 707.664.3203.
Having starred in over 2,000 films, ranked No. 1 in Adult Video Newsâ€™ â€œ50 Top Porn Stars of All Timeâ€? list and possessing a 9.75-inch you-know-what, porn star Ron Jeremy is well-equipped with the tools to defend his profession. But does he have the debating skills? In a titillating exchange called the â€˜Great Porn Debateâ€™ that already has everybody talking, Jeremy will appear opposite anti-porn crusaders Harmony Dust, ex-stripper and founder of a faith-based outreach to women in the sex industry, and Craig Goss, pastor and founder of XXXchurch.com, a website offering â€œspiritual solutionsâ€? to pornography. Jeremy and Goss have faced off before, discussing everything from violent video games to pornâ€™s inf luence as de facto sex ed for children in the age of the internet, and thereâ€™s no telling what unexpected things may come up when Jeremy, Dust and Goss go at it on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Sonoma State University Cooperage. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 7:30pm. $5â€“$15. 707.664.2382.
Animated Ambush The Charles M. Schulz Museumâ€™s fantastic cartoonist-in-residence program gets a shot of adrenaline this weekend, as not one, not two, but 16 cartoonists appear together in a blowout Cartoonist Sketch-aThon inside the hallowed halls of all things â€œSparky.â€? For two hours, visitors will be able to observe and talk to pencil-wielding wizards of animation, including Dan Piraro (of the comic panel â€œBizarroâ€?), Paul Madonna (the San Francisco Chronicleâ€™s â€œAll Over Coffeeâ€?), Alexis Fajardo (â€œKid Beowulf â€?), Debbie Huey (â€œBumperboyâ€?), Mike Gray (Nickelodeon) and others. At 3:30pm, Piraro speaks about his career with â€œBizarro,â€?for which he recently won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. Itâ€™s a chance to see up-close and personal the funny little oval-withcrosshairs that cartoonists draw with a blue pencil before inking in a face on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Schulz Museum. 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa. 1pm. Free with $5â€“$10 admission. 707.579.4452.
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Ten years ago, photographer Joe Mickey met with a lama in Mendocino and began correspondence with an exiled Tibetan monk in India. From their exchange, Mickey formed the Tibetan Photo Project, sending pointand-shoot cameras to Tibetans dedicated to rebuilding their culture. An outgrowth of this project stops in Marin this Saturday, with a film series called â€˜Save Tibet . . . Why?â€™ Featuring five filmsâ€”two about the photo project, three by Tibetans living in exile in Indiaâ€”the subject matter ranges from a visit by the Dalai Lama to a remote Muslim village at the Pakistani border (Prayers Answered) to a 17-minute train journey across India with Tibetan rock musicians (Music on Wheels). Mickey himself presents and takes a Q&A, and all proceed go toward sending more cameras to exiled Tibetans on Saturday, Sept. 11, at 142 Throckmorton Theatre. 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. 4pm to 9pm. $16â€“$20. 415.383.9600.
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