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Dead Letter Office
Kenny Be's depiction of a Dead theme park on Treasure Island ("The Dead Zone," Music, Jan. 14) was knowing and hilarious. He forgot a few dark-starred attractions, however:

* the DEA Fish-in-a-Barrel Shoot
* the Short-Term Memory Toss
* the Flame Eater
* the Drums-and-Space Rest Room
and, last but not least,
* the Parked Car Hunt.
Steve Silberman, Co-Author
Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads
Via Internet

That, Uh, Depends
Your Terrapin Station cartoon ("The Dead Zone") made me pee in my pants. Where do I send the cleaning bill?

Bob Loewenthal
Via Internet

Come On, Mano a Mono
The last eight words contained in "The Grid" article are paradoxical in nature ("Union Disorganizing," Jan. 7). The words "when they have gone off the good path" could describe the article written by George Cothran and John Mecklin. I have spent a lifetime defending individuals' right to speak out. However, I believe there needs to be some boundary lines of decency if a true picture is to develop in the minds of readers.

One of the points made by the writers seems to be: Take a job, accept the pay, whatever it is, and if it's not enough, struggle along and live in the economic penalty box and be glad you are working. I believe nonprofits have the same responsibility as all other employers. Pay decent wages, provide decent benefits, and recognize employees as real people deserving of respect and consideration.

Why, pray tell me, would a newspaper devote an entire page to pummeling and attacking an organization that has only one goal -- the goal of improving the lives of working people by providing opportunities to pursue the American Dream?

Since strong disparaging statements have been tossed out around San Francisco because of the article, I would suggest a public debate take place with a representative of your newspaper and a representative from Local 790. Also that a neutral panel conduct the debate and that the public be invited.

Let's get it all out in the open and not hide behind the pen.
Walter L. Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer
San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Shopping Around the Presidio
Larry Buck's response in the Jan. 7 edition ("Big Bucks on the Line," Letters), to an earlier article concerning the Presidio Commissary ("Bag It, Larry," Bay View, Dec. 24), contains major errors concerning that facility. It also ignores important aspects of all other assets at the Presidio, aspects which have never been brought to public attention.

It is popularly, but mistakenly, believed by those outside the military community that the Commissary and other recreational and social facilities at the Presidio and other military reservations are provided by the government out of tax revenues. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Commissary did not cost the taxpayers $15 million as Mr. Buck alleges; every penny of the $13,092,240 that went into its construction came from a 5 percent surcharge levied on every purchase made by every patron in every military commissary around the world. All commissaries are funded through such surcharges. In fact a plaque at the entrance proclaims that fact, just as a plaque at the entrance to the adjacent Post Exchange announces that it too was built without tax funds but from profits generated from sales to military personnel. It is surprising that in his detailed examination of the property prior to making a $28 million bid for its lease, Mr. Buck failed to note the existence of the plaque.

Nunzio J. Camarda
Sergeant Major U.S.A. (Retired)
Friends of the Presidio Association
San Francisco

How 'Bout a Warm Fuzzy Hug?
I can't speak to the alleged "slash-and-burn tactics" of Local 790 organizers at the AIDS Foundation (are you sure you've got your story straight?), but as a nonprofit worker active in organizing with SEIU Local 790's United Community Workers, I must respond to the blatant smear job by George Cothran and John Mecklin in the Grid ("Union Disorganizing," Jan. 7).

First, the picture you draw of rapacious and destructive union organizers falling upon "small," "cash-strapped," charity-dependent organizations that are just trying to give the world a warm fuzzy hug out of the goodness of their hearts is a distortion of reality. There are smaller and larger nonprofits, but the largest nonprofits, which are the most resistant to organizing efforts, are powerful players that sit down with the city and county for the annual budget divvy-up. Bayview Foundation, for example, has a $6 million annual budget, most of which comes from public monies. They are also exempt from sunshine laws and are a lot less accountable than public agencies.

My second point is that your writers do not address the active efforts of the employees of nonprofits. And after describing the nonprofits as vulnerable charities, you state, "These funders -- especially government agencies -- are not fond of providing cost-of-living adjustments." Which might provide a clue as to why workers in the nonprofits, who have not had a COLA in over five years, might be interested in organizing.

Steve Surryhne
Tenderloin Clinic
San Francisco

Flippant? Dog Bites?
Thanks for your brief item ("From the Please Shut Up Department," Dog Bites, Jan. 14) on the controversy surrounding the Institute for Alternative Journalism. Despite the flippant, condescending tone of your piece, there's actually a real issue here, and a lot of us in the alternative press take it very seriously.

On the surface, it's mostly a trade-association issue, insider stuff involving the relationship between the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and IAJ, a nonprofit that AAN created about 10 years ago to run our wire service. A lot of AAN editors, including your professional colleagues at other New Times papers, think IAJ is doing a rotten job running the service: Important stories don't get out on the wire, the IAJ staff is uncooperative and sometimes hostile to clients, and IAJ Executive Director Don Hazen seems a lot more interested in running big navel-gazing conferences on "media democracy" than in helping editors like me put out better alternative newspapers.

AAN will probably sever its ties with IAJ this year and cut off the $33,000 annual subsidy we pay to support the wire service. Hazen and his allies are trying to stop that from happening, and they've turned it into an ugly personal battle. Which is annoying, if not surprising.

But there's a larger issue here.
A lot of what alternative papers publish is highly political, often controversial. IAJ decides which stories from papers like SF Weekly and the Bay Guardian are worth sending out to a nationwide audience -- and which are not. Those are political decisions.

I'm never going to agree with every decision the IAJ censors make (per-sonally, I think the wire service ought to send out everything it gets, and let the editors decide what to use; that ap-proach works for AP), but at the very least, I need to know that the decisions are made on the basis of some credible journalistic standard -- not some hidden political agenda.

IAJ gets most of its million-dollar annual budget from foundation grants. Private foundations these days not only give money to nonprofit groups -- they try, often successfully, to influence the political agendas of the groups they fund. This is a growing problem for progressive grass-roots organizations all over the country: If you want the money to pay your rent and keep your staff from starving, you have to tailor your activism to the causes foundation funders like.

Is IAJ letting the desires of its foundation funders influence how it runs the alternative press wire service? I don't know -- IAJ board meetings are secret. Hazen won't tell me which foundations he's approaching or what he's promising them. I still don't know how much money comes from which grants from which foundations, or for which IAJ projects that money was earmarked.

The fact that I don't know these things makes me -- and a lot of other alternative newspaper editors -- very nervous about the organization that is controlling the syndication of our editorial content.

P.S.: I haven't heard Bruce Brugmann ask "Where's the bottleneck?" in at least 10 years. And I've never heard him use that phrase in anger or indignation; it was always a joke, delivered with a smile. It reflected his (admitted) cluelessness about the details of the production side of the newspaper business. I don't know where you found the "disgruntled former staff member" you quoted, but I can tell you this: Shortly before she died of cancer last winter, Cecily Murphy, who had worked for Bruce for many years, sent him a long, touching letter about all the good times she'd had at the paper. She signed it, "yours truly, the Bottleneck."

Tim Redmond, Executive Editor
San Francisco Bay Guardian


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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