Berkeley Fourth


Breaking news: It’s the day of our “traditional” neighborhood July 4th gathering. The kickoff event: an around-the-block parade with all the kids on our two blocks. Led by the flag bearers, they march with a boombox blaring “Stars and Stripes Forever.” More later.

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Tuesday Notes

Speaking of new neighbors: The New York Times reports that wildlife biologists from Cornell are doing a study of the apparently large and relatively new population of coyotes moving into Westchester County, just north of the city. Coyotes have an apparent taste for small dogs of the dust-mop variety: “… a Mount Pleasant couple reported that a few years ago a coyote hopped a four-foot fence, snatched their Lhasa apso and jumped back over — in plain sight of the husband. In June 2006, a Croton-on-Hudson resident, Herbert Doran, was walking his bichon frisé at night when a coyote lunged at the dog. ‘He tried to muscle me out of the way with his body to get to her,” Mr. Doran said in a phone interview. “I came down on his head with a flashlight. He was stunned for a second and then he stepped back. We had a stare-down for four or five seconds and then he took off.’ ”

Places not to get lost: Oregon ranks high on the list. Two or three weeks ago, Bay Area papers were reporting on two locals who had gone missing while on a trip to the Portland area. Investigators and family members speculated that the pair, a Jesuit priest and a longtime friend, had run off the road somewhere while touring the region. Well, it turns out the speculation was right — the missing people were found dead in a car wreck off the side of a northwestern Oregon highway. But that’s not all. It turns out that another motorist witnessed the June 8 crash, took careful note of the location, and then left the scene to find a phone and call 911; he reached dispatchers just minutes after the accident but he had no information on the potential victims’ condition and didn’t return to the scene.

After some initial confusion about which jurisdiction should respond, police arrived at the reported location. They looked around for awhile, and after about an hour called off the search. As The Oregonian reports, the families of the dead tourists are pretty unhappy: “We want to find out what skill levels and communication go on in Oregon,” said Rosemary Mulligan, [driver David] Schwartz’s sister. “The individual who called 9-1-1 was so detailed that my 16-year-old daughter could have found the car. For adults not to find it is pretty inexcusable.”

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New Neighbor

Berkeley turkey

We’ve got deer in our neighborhood — they’re slowly moving down from the hills, and one of our across-the-street neighbors thinks they’re grazing on her garden at night. We’ve got possums, raccoons, and skunks aplenty. A passel of hawks and owls, too. And now introducing: a wild turkey. Kate saw the bird out in the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School yesterday morning while she was walking Scout, the wonder dog. She took the camera today, and the bird was there again — sure enough, a turkey. It’s become common to see them in the hills, along with foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions — it’s getting to be a regular wild kingdom up there. But these birds are a new arrival in our ZIP code. A woman Kate met today remarked that so far just one has been sighted, and, since you usually see turkeys in groups — your one-liner here — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more roaming the area soon. Next, I imagine we’ll see a coyote trotting down the block looking for a turkey dinner.

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On the Tube

Taking a break from the topic of dentistry for a moment — except to note a story (by way of Marie) about Southern Illinois University’s dental school suspending the grades of its entire 2010 class because students are suspected of cheating — two notes on the current state of television. Well, not the state of television — more like, here’s what I think of two new shows on HBO.

One is “The Flight of the Conchords.” Two New Zealand lads land in New York aspiring to conquer the world of rock and roll. It’s very inventive and funny. Everyone should see it. (The two guys behind it, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, have been working the Conchords act for several years; there’s a BBC radio series based on their alleged exploits in Britain, too — haven’t tracked that down yet, though).

The other is “John from Cincinnati.” The show arrived with high expectations because it’s the work of David Milch, who’s responsible for the unforgivably long-lived “NYPD Blue” and the shamefully short-lived “Deadwood.” OK, so we’re four episodes into the season. As noted last week, the highlight for me is the opening credits, featuring a lovely montage of “golden age of Southern California surface” clips displayed with the oddly moving “Johnny Appleseed” (Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros) as soundtrack. The problem with what happens after the opening sequence is nearly everything. I guess the thing is shot nicely. The cast is competent in its best moments but flat, ill at ease, off-key and wooden most of the time. You can’t blame most of the actors, though; they’re wrestling with a poorly conceived story line full of nonsensical plot twists and subplots; (an odd stranger shows up in surferville; many odd things ensue; we’re made to understand the paranormal is at work). The individual episodes dispense with character development or credibility; the dialogue is wooden or soap opera-ish or falsely mysterious.

How bad is the show? Well, the part of the waterfront it covers concerns miracles in our workaday world. But the way this show doles out supernatural events, the miracles are not nearly as thought-provoking and surprising as, say, a can of Guinness draught with its special little gas capsule. Tonight, the title character, who is a cipher and perhaps the second coming of Jesus (he’s given to saying “the end is near”) was savagely stabbed by a man trying to rob him. But after three weeks of empty hocus-pocus, it was utterly unsurprising — in a George Reeves-era “Superman” holding up his hand to stop a bullet kind of way — that the character was ultimately unharmed. Oh, wow, another miracle.

I’ll pray for another one: Someone please make this show go away.

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