Category: California Page 2 of 4

a little of column A, a little of column B

Either a brilliant destiny awaits California, or one the most sordid and degraded.

Governor Peter Burnett, first governor of California, 1849 inaugural address.

My little commute

On my way to work, I saw a school crossing guard jaywalking.

I also almost got run over crossing the street, but that’s pretty typical. Drivers disrespect my rights as a pedestrian at least three times a week, maybe more.

I’m extra-careful, of course. For example, I always make sure to look behind me when crossing the street to make sure no cars behind me are about to turn right.

In almost 6 years of walking down 13th, 14th, and/or 17th from Madison Street to Broadway, twice a day (after rush hour both ways), I’ve observed that many drivers in downtown Oakland:

  • appear to be in a big hurry
  • often drive too fast, especially on the wide, straight one-way streets
  • don’t really care about (or know?) pedestrian rights
  • more specifically, frequently turn into crosswalks without checking if someone is crossing the street, focusing instead on whether any cars are coming (which is of course the wrong order of precedence)

This is not everyone, of course, and I’m sure it’s not unique to Oakland — in fact, just now, a nice guy in a minivan stopped to acknowledge that what the other driver did was “radical” (his word). Of course, Oakland is tougher than Berkeley; when I first moved here and lived in Berkeley for 10 months, my timing was really thrown off by how frequently people would stop their cars short if they saw you even think about crossing the street. People just don’t do that in the Midwest. (And they don’t do it predictably in Oakland.)

My way of crossing the street in Minneapolis, Madison, and Milwaukee was essentially Frogger-like: wait until there’s an opening and cross behind a passing car — with the assumption that cars would maintain a constant speed, regardless of the presence of pedestrians. Because in those places, that’s what they did. Here, I’ve actually sometimes pretended not to intend to cross the street, if I want a car to keep moving. Yes, I don’t trust drivers, any of them, at least while I’m a pedestrian. (When I’m getting a ride from them, I trust them implicitly.) I’d rather be on the safe side.

Who knew a twice-daily seven-block walk could be so eventful, or bring up so many silly observations?

Here Today

Here Today

I only discovered it was the 29th anniversary of John Lennon’s death tonight, hanging out at Good News Cafe with some of my nicest neighbors.

I recently stumbled upon a recording of Paul McCartney performing at Shea Stadium last summer and was really touched to hear him play “Here Today,” McCartney’s tribute to John Lennon from his 1982 album “Tug of War”. I remember listening to my mom’s vinyl copy of that album (which I’m pretty sure she still has somewhere) on big headphones in my living room, growing up.

The other day I looked up the chords to the song, and tonight I decided to record myself singing and playing it. This is the first thing I’ve recorded that I actually feel is good enough to release to the world, so here’s my debut MP3: Jason Gohlke covering “Here Today” on December 8, 2009.

Here Today – Jason Gohlke

You know you live in Oakland when…

shopping cart secured...

…walking home, you notice that someone has carefully secured their shopping cart to a post with a U-lock.

Brainwash Trailer & Press Release


Contacts: Dave Krzysik, 415-273-1545
Jason Gohlke, 510-684-6100

Brainwash Movie Festival to show 25 shorts, 1 feature

15th Annual Drive-in Bike-in Walk-in Festival starts tonight in Oakland, continues 7/31 & 8/1

The New York Times says the Brainwash Movie Festival “pirat[es] a piece of that old Hollywood magic and challeng[es] conventions on the role of public space in the process.” (Now Playing, a Digital Brigadoon, 7/29/04, Chris Thompson)

“We project movies onto a tarp in West Oakland,” counters festival director Shelby Toland.

The sometimes thought-provoking, often wacky, but always original Brainwash Movie Festival returns in the summer of 2009 for what could be the best festival ever.

“These are movies that know they’re movies,” claims festival judge Jason Gohlke. “If you like the art of storytelling, if you care about the suspension of disbelief, or if you just like watching moving pictures on a screen, you don’t want to miss Brainwash this year.”

Attendees to the festival are encouraged to either drive, bike, walk, or take public transit to the venue, where movies are screened in traditional drive-in movie theater fashion, complete with FM transmission and a full-service concession stand.

The fully juried festival will screen 23 original shorts in two separate programs (see There will also be a Premiere Party — Brainwash Zombie Night — on July 18th at 9 pm at 1357 5th Street in Oakland, which will be the West Coast Premiere of the feature film “Doctor S Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies: The Movie.” Filmmaker Bryan Ortiz of San Antonio, Texas, will be in attendance for Q & A.

The 2009 15th Annual Brainwash Movie Festival will be held July 31st and August 1st at 9:00 p.m. in Oakland — check for location details. (Tentative location is the Steel Building at 1960 Mandela Parkway @ 18th; backup location is 1357 5th Street.) Moviemakers to attend include Mark Thimijan, creator of “Mister Coffey.”

Admission is $9 per person per night OR $30 for a Double Brain Pass, which gets two people into the entire festival including a special exclusive preview night. Buy tickets at or at the gate.

For more info, see

Brainwash Movie Festival: 7/18, 7/31, 8/1 in Oakland!

Brainwash logo I’ve been spending lots of my free time — even when I was on vacation and out of town — working on the Brainwash Movie Festival. (Here’s Brainwash on Facebook — become a fan!)

That would be the Bay Area’s own original Drive-in, Bike-in, Walk-in Movie Festival, held within spitting distance of the West Oakland BART station.

2009 marks the 15th annual festival (founded by the mysterious Shelby Toland and one of my co-workers, Dave Krzysik), and I’ve been helping out for at least the last five years. Sometimes it’s felt like 500, but this is not one of those times. This is the first year I’ve officially been a partner in the festival.

I launched a new website (which still needs some images and stuff) when I happened to be out of town, designed some new flyers, put us on Facebook, helped judge the movies and set up the program (and 24 of the 25 shorts are actually really GOOD), and then this past weekend helped shoot the trailer for this year’s festival (finally). It’s all been a lot of fun but pretty exhausting. Hopefully we’ll get a good turnout, but it’s always hard to know what’s going to happen.

The venue is actually a little up in the air, which is a humongous pain, a problem for promoting the festival, and a story I (or Dave) can tell you some other time. Parts of the festival will almost certainly be at the Steel Building at 18th and Mandela — we will know if we have to move it on Thursday.

But I can say with confidence that if you come to the festival you will enjoy it.

When, and where?

Buy tickets in advance on TicketWeb. Hope to see you there!

Birthday observations

You may or may not be aware that some of the hippie types in Northern California are not fans of common expressions that involve cruelty to animals. The most common expression I’ve heard transformed since moving to the charming little enclave known as the Bay is “to kill two birds with one stone.”

Not cool, not cool at all: Better to say (and I’ve heard people say these unironically–and I must admit I have used one of them) “feed two birds with one seed” or “free two birds with one key.” (I just heard someone attempt to use “pet two rabbits with one hand” the other day, but that seems to miss the mark somewhat.)

I have my own modest proposal, which all must indulge since it is in fact my birthday. I used the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back” on Friday (for reasons I won’t get into here). I propose a new, cruelty-free variant: “the plaster that set the camel’s full-body cast.”

Missive from downtown Oakland

Well, I’m okay, after all the protests that turned into scattered rioting within a 10-block radius of my apartment.

Here are some pictures of what happened tonight; people protested and rioted in response to a BART police officer killing a 22-year-old BART rider in the early morning hours of January 1st, a week ago.

My recap based on the aerial footage and reporting that was all over local TV tonight: The protest was relatively peaceful when it moved from Fruitvale BART to Lake Merritt BART (the next stop down the line). Police closed then re-opened those stations as the crowds grew and shrunk. The protest got rowdier as it moved to 12th Street/Oakland City Center (the next stop, and the closest to Oakland City Hall [and incidentally my workplace at 350 Frank Ogawa Plaza]).

my Bay Area first after six years

I slept through my BART stop.

Coming back from SFO to 19th Street is nearly an hour ride. I slept through most of it, waking up briefly at 24th and Mission, Montgomery, and right when the doors closed at my stop. Oops.

(I’m writing this at MacArthur, waiting for the train home–a little too keyed up to fall asleep again.)

but keep voting!

There are important things in California still to decide… and nationwide… so keep voting till the polls close!

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