June 24, 2010

Report from the Detroit Social Forum: Networking & sleeping around

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 8:23 am

I arrived at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit today — without a clue about what I was getting myself into. But it turned out to be a very amazing gig. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people were there, all trying to rack their brains for solutions regarding what to do about America’s numerous major problems. Plus everyone was networking like crazy. And the grandiose size of this vast event made past Teabagger conventions look pretty puny. I had NO idea that there were so many progressives still left in America.

And I too was out there networking like crazy and racking my brains — but mainly about where I was going to be sleeping tonight.

When people came up to the Free Palestine Movement booth where I was working today, first I would try to set them straight about what is really happening in Palestine. “Palestinians are basically just people like you or me, except for one big difference — they have the jackboots of the world’s fifth largest military machine slammed down onto their throats.”

“And why is that?”

If you ask me, it’s because American weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists keep goading Israel to keep on acting crazy; to keep on acting in ways that anyone with half a brain could easily see is going to totally piss everyone else in the Middle East off. So. Why do they keep doing these stupid things that obviously don’t work? Why? In order to create and maintain the perfect Endless War. You can’t sell guns if you don’t have a war. Duh.

Anyway, back at the booth. First I would cover all the salient points about what the FPM is doing to break the brutal blockade of Gaza — such as organizing ships and boycotts and divestments and perhaps even planning to fly an airplane loaded with humanitarian supplies into Gaza. The semi-crazy right-wing fundies currently in charge of Israel’s “Big Guns and F16s Department” wouldn’t shoot down an airplane with little old ME on board, would they? Don’t answer that.

Then, after I’d handed out all of my FPM brochures, I’d ask people where they were staying while at the convention. Here are some of the replies that I got:

1. “The Super 8 Motel.”

“How much does it cost?” I asked.

“It’s located way out on the freeway near Lansing, so it’s reasonable.”

“But how do you get there?”

“We rented a car.” Oh. Screw that. Too expensive for me and no place to park it here anyway. Next person.

2. “I’m staying in a church. In a sleeping bag. On the floor.” Oh.

3. “I live here in Detroit. I can bike over.” Lucky you.

4. “I’ve got a really nice room at the Regency.” Expensive. “But I’m sharing it with five other people so it’s not so bad.”

5. “We drove down from Canada. We’re staying with friends.” Rats. I have no friends in Detroit.

6. “I’m at the Doubletree. But my boyfriend is paying for it.” I shoulda planned ahead and gotten a sugar daddy. What was I thinking!

7. “We came up from North Carolina. The Victory Motel. Out on Route 94. $60 a night.” Yeah, and I bet that you have a car also.

8. “At the Clarion. $62 a night. No car. We take the 125 bus to the airport and then take a shuttle to our hotel.” How long does that take you? “Two and a half hours.”

9. A woman with a child had no idea where she was going to be staying. “We just got in from Ohio.” I felt her pain.

10. “Holiday Inn. Right down the street.” How much a night? “I’m not sure. I’m here with my parents.” I wish I had parents.

11. “I’m just down from Ann Arbor for the day. 45 of us chartered a bus.”

12. “In the dorms at Wayne University. 35 bucks a night. You get your own room.” I’m there! But when I inquired around, I unfortunately found out that there was no there there.

Then my friends said I could stay with them at the Code Pink house. Okay. But then Medea Benjamin got detained while crossing the border back in from Canada and the person detained with her was the one who owned the house here in Detroit and so that deal fell through.

Finally I decided to just go sleep on a park bench over by the river next door to Cobo Hall. On my way to the park, however, I saw some shuttle buses lined up to take conventioneers back to Dearborn. So I just got into the line. I’d never been to Dearborn before. And, once in Dearborn, I was lucky enough to find a cheap room for the night. And it is a good thing that I did too because it would have been like Dante’s Inferno out on that park bench because there is nothing outside my window right now except lots and lots of rain and brilliant and terrifying flashes of thunder and lightning.

But at least it’s not Operation Cast Lead.

PS: Perhaps you have noticed that without a car I have been pretty much stuck here in downtown Detroit, without many options. They don’t call this place the Motor City for nothing.

And when I finally did get onto that bus to Dearborn and hit the freeway, I noticed a lot of crumbling and deserted industrial buildings by the sides of the interchanges — but the freeways themselves were freaking works of art as they cut through Detroit like knives through butter. No neighborhood seemed to be spared. Freeways definitely take priority here.

And my experiences here in Detroit only fortify my opinion that without gas and cars, America is pretty much screwed. Without gas and cars, we are pretty much stuck wherever we are — be it in the inner city or out in the suburbs. We don’t have to wait for “terrorists” to come and blow us up. We appear to be pretty much doing that to ourselves without any help already, thanks to our crippling reliance on oil and cars.

“Don’t forget the Motor City….”

June 23, 2010

No gluten, no dairy: My search for the perfect éclair

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 9:36 am

Recently I met a doctor who told me, “The first thing that I do when I get a new patient is to take him entirely off gluten and dairy for a month. And chances are good that, if the patient takes my advice, whatever symptoms he has will improve.” I also read where autistic children do better without dairy products or gluten.

Okay. I’ve got digestive problems. I’ll try it. It works.

But then I ran into a really big snag — Solvang. You just can’t visit the Danish pastry capital of America without having an éclair. And what an eclair it was too! Seven inches long, covered with chocolate, with both custard AND whipped cream for filling — and with a yummy cherry sauce in there too.

Sometimes you just gotta break down and go off your diet.

Even back home in Berkeley and safely back on my “no gluten, no dairy” diet, I still kept having dreams and fantasies about that perfect Solvang éclair. What to do? You really can’t justify driving 250 miles just to score another éclair. Can you?

So I started Googling around for a list of bakeries in Berkeley. Berkeley has everything, right?

Andronico’s had an éclair on offer but it was one of those fancy gourmet eclairs and just wasn’t squishy enough.

Telegraph Avenue’s famous Eclair Bakery had gone out of business — and the Pastry King across from the Med only sold muffins and donuts.

“Love At First Bite” only sold cupcakes. Sweet Adeline didn’t carry eclairs. Crixa, that fabulous bakery around the corner from me where visual masterpiece cakes are lovingly created by hand, also didn’t carry eclairs. Rats.

Hopkins Street Bakery only carried éclairs with custard filling. I was only interested in ones with whipped cream.

Then there was Massa’s. Their entry into my éclair sweepstakes was GREEN. It was a very interesting éclair, with pink marzipan flowers on top and flavored with lemon zest. I’m glad I bought it. However, it was NOT a real éclair.

Virginia Bakery scored triumphant points with a good-looking, good-tasting traditional old-fashioned whipped cream éclair.

And Toots Sweet? I almost forgot about Toots Sweet but we were driving back from touring the Red Oak Victory ship that is part of the Rosie the Riveter Home Front national park in Richmond and we drove by Toots Sweet. “Have any éclairs?” I asked.

“We’re sold out now but will have some tomorrow. Our customers say that they are very good.”

Even the Berkeley Bowl offered a yummy-looking mini-éclair — but it too was only custard.

But the winner of my grand search for the perfect éclair? This will come as no surprise to residents of Berkeley. It was La Farine. OMG. They used both whipping cream and custard. But what really tipped the scales in their favor was that they used dark chocolate — even better than Solvang!

PS: I’m currently reading some books by futurist James Howard Kunstler, including “The Long Emergency” and “World Made By Hand”. In the future, Kunstler predicts, the demise of oil and gasoline will produce a society with no cars and no electricity. The Industrial Revolution will have become merely a small blip in the time-line of human history.

Also, the London Daily Mail has just reported that, “A solar superstorm could send us back into the dark ages — and one is due in just three years: Within an hour, large parts of Britain are without power. By midnight, every mobile network is down and the internet is dying. Television — terrestrial and satellite — blinks off the air. Radio is reduced to a burst of static.” And this black-out could go on for two or three years.–just-THREE-years.html

What does all this mean for the future of civilization? It means that we all need to run out and stock up on éclairs right NOW — while our refrigerators are still running. At the very least, we need to start stocking up on our MEMORIES of éclairs.

PPS: The Free Palestine Movement (, famous for organizing the first boats to relieve Israel’s brutal and illegal blockade of Gaza, just asked me to help them man their table at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. So I’m there now. Stop by my booth and I’ll hand you a brochure.

May 18, 2010

Berkeley’s Grassroots House helps send a boat to Gaza

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:40 pm

The Berkeley Barb used to be my home town’s most famous “newspaper of record,” and we also had another hometown rag called “Grassroots”. However, both these papers have been out of print for more than 40 years and now most of our local Berkeley newspapers have gone digital — except for “Grassroots,” which has bucked that trend and simply gone “residential”. It has changed from being a newspaper into being, er, a building?

Located on Blake Street just below Shattuck, Berkeley’s Grassroots House still does all that crusading-against-injustice type of stuff that the newspaper it was named after used to do — only now it does it with shingles, wood and windows instead of with newsprint. According to a 2009 article by Lydia Gans in the Berkeley Daily Planet, “Grassroots House…is a community building that provides office and meeting space for a number of social justice organizations.” And one of those social justice organizations is the Free Palestine Movement — which is currently helping to financially sponsor one-half of the cost of a boat in an international flotilla sailing from Greece to Gaza with medical supplies at the end of May.

Does this make Grassroots House “The place that launched a half a ship”?

Local Free Palestine Movement members Janet Kobran and Paul Larudee will be on board the FPM-sponsored half-boat when it — and seven and a half other boats — leaves Greece for Gaza in a flotilla meant to break Israel’s four-year-long siege of Gaza by providing Gaza with various much-needed humanitarian supplies. And Ehud Barak, Israel’s Minister of Defense, has promised to send almost the entire Israeli navy out to intercept this small flotilla.

Has Berkeley’s Grassroots House once again gotten itself into hot water?

Like its namesake, the original Grassroots newspaper, it looks like the Grassroots House has once again assumed the role of a biblical David by attempting to take on a very formidable Goliath — one who has threatened to use whatever force necessary to stop this humanitarian relief effort.

Oh well. That’s Berkeley for you — home to a whole bunch of us latter-day Davids. And although we may not win every round against the world’s many Goliaths, we still keep on trying. And perhaps this time the FPM’s half-a-boat will be successful in helping relieve the siege of Gaza.

(Here’s a link to the FPM, where you can actually track the flotilla’s progress via a coolness spot-locator:

PS: The City of Berkeley also recently announced that, within our city limits, a corporation is still NOT a person. Yaay!

PPS: When China successfully invaded America about a decade ago and established a strong beachhead in almost every town in the USA, it couldn’t conquer Berkeley! To this day, Berkeley still does NOT have a WalMart.

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