More Videos from Oakland

I’ve learned to make short videos, sometimes with music, sometimes without. When I use music it is invariably from my collection of oldies-except the two videos I made using Boots Riley performing “Underdogs” at a rally against gang injunctions. I have made cat videos, mostly with my cat, Woody, but some with neighbors’ cats. I have made videos celebrating Lakeshore Avenue’s retail upsurge, well, one about the opening of Kwik Way and of local happenings near Lake Merritt.

But, mostly I make short videos of political events that say something to me. The funny thing is that I have a bunch (no idea of the actual length) of videos from the Occupy Oakland days which are languishing somewhere on my old computer’s hard drive-never did get around to putting them together which probably says something about my still sad, angry-confused inner zeitgeist on the whole damn thing. Someday.

(If you watch the first video, then keep watching, other videos will pop up or got to my channel on youtube.)

So, back to the music problem. If I use recordings I have come by legally downloading them, I still find that youtube has prevented them from being seen on mobile devices. A couple made it through before they decided to block them. The two videos I made using Boots Riley as a chorus I put on vimeo so no commercials would be sold on them; and I used one other platform for a long video of a meeting-don’t remember which! If you are acquainted with somebody who will let me use their homegrown music to avoid that problem, let me know. I can’t promise to make them famous though. The most hits I have gotten on my little channel is 336 on my “Save Adult Education Now” for a grand total of 2, 575 hits.

Well, I just checked my channel, bethpikegirlagain, and reminded myself that I made a really silly video on squirrels and one on bees buzzing my neighbor’s giant flower bush, nah, can’t remember the name of that fabulous plant, but it’s an ode to spring.

I’m still using windows movie-maker which leaves a lot to be desired and have recently used my phone to record video which really leaves even more to be desired. I should start carrying around my tiny camcorder so I’m always ready.

I don’t even know why I do it. I never take videos of tourist attractions. I don’t have grandchildren to record (yet). I can only get my kids to succumb when they have no way to prevent it (ha, my son’s law school graduation is very soon!), but I continue to want to document the life around me. There’s lots of snippets on my computer, waiting to be accidentally deleted, no doubt. Say a prayer that those snippets survive my general electronic incompetence.

Yes, I am as blown away that I can do any part of this as my friends are. Most of the time I don’t know how I got it put together. Just finding the damn shots stored on my computer can take up to an hour…then I used to have to convert them to another format before even using movie maker because I had an old XP system that could not translate some formats. Good grief, what language am I even speaking?

It’s just this damn tenaciousness that is a family trait. I might start making my video around 10 PM and wrap up around 2 AM waiting for youtube to finish uploading-and that’s for a 2 and half minute video! Without the assistance and encouragement of some folks formerly of Oakland Local-I won’t name them because they might be embarrassed by my product-I wouldn’t have persevered.

Anyway, while this videos never go viral, they are the little bit of art that my arthritic hands can still get satisfaction from creating. I hope that they inform, provoke, entertain, or annoy a few folks here and there. Whatever, I can’t stop documenting some of the moments that provoke, annoy, and even uplift me. So here are some more you may not have seen.

Oh, one more note, without some form of art and creation, life is not worth living, so maybe that’s why I do it.

Lakeshore Lessons in Creativity and Reuse

Linda Hubbard's handmade, recycled paper bag flowers

Linda Hubbard’s handmade, recycled paper bag flowers

If you’ve ever marveled at the wonderful window displays at Silver Moon Kids, you might be curious to know who creates that delicious whimsy. If you were to pass by now, you’d be blown away by the huge colorful “flowers” sharing the window with the children’s clothes, stuffed animals, and toys.

Her name is Linda Hubbard and she is the owner, Dima Hart’s, mom. She is a self-taught artist and window designer. Once upon a time she studied art in college but never finished, dropping out to be a self-described hippy. Later, Linda got a master’s in speech therapy and worked in that field until retirement, forgoing her art. About a decade ago, she picked up the brush again and began to paint. Around the time of Linda’s retirement, Dima opened her Lakeshore store-her former store was on Grand Avenue and for a short time, we were merchant neighbors.

Since then Linda has helped set up the store, painted the fairy mural on the back wall and come up with fanciful designs to showcase the store’s merchandise. Perhaps you remember the beautifully handmade heart for Valentine’s Day? But this month, she has outdone herself. I asked her how she did it.Linda's paper heart

Like any modern woman, she got the idea from a you tube video that described making giant flowers from old paper grocery bags! For these flowers she used recycled Trader Joe’s and Monterey Market bags, tweaking the shape and number of petals and using no VOC (volatile organic compounds-no outgassing-and safe around children) paints. She says it took her about a month to make them working a few hours a day. Repurposed paper bags being painted

When I had my shop on Grand I often sold art from recycled objects, many from my own hand, and encouraged people, mostly women, to take a chance, especially with paint! I’d buy mixed tints that are sold for less or given away at most paint or hardware stores because they did not come out exactly the way the original buyers wanted them. Then I mix them with more paints and voila, I paint whatever gets in my way and paint over it if I don’t like it. I painted bricks on my concrete patio in lieu of installing expensive stonework. I use cheap acrylics and repaint them every couple of years. This year I am contemplating over painting them with glow-in-the-dark paint. I’ll let you know how that comes out soon. Cat walking on "bricks"

So, go see the wonderful windows in this charming store. Chat with Linda the next time you see her in the window, then go out and try something yourself. We may not all be as creative as Linda and Dima (by the way, Linda says the best part of doing this is working with her daughter), but we can have fun trying.

Not available in the store.

Nonprofit Fights for Oakland School Libraries

One-third of the libraries in the city’s public schools remain closed due to budget cuts, but a nonprofit is working to reopen them. (first appeared in the East Bay Express, March 27 edition)



It’s hard to keep track of the many educational programs that no longer exist in California because of budget cuts enacted during the past decade. The elimination of adult education in local school districts is one example. School libraries have also lost significant financial support. In Oakland, one-third of the public school libraries have been closed for years, and another third are only open part-time with limited staffing — mostly by volunteers.

Indeed, the school librarian, like the school counselor, has become an endangered species in Oakland and other cities throughout the state. My kids graduated from Oakland public schools in the 1990s. As lackluster and sad as their schools seemed back then, at least their libraries were still open and staffed.

Depending on where and when you grew up, you probably had a library in your elementary school. And by the time you got to high school, you could depend on finding a good selection of encyclopedias, non-fiction books, periodicals, and novels. You could talk to the librarian when you couldn’t find what you wanted, and you learned about the Dewey Decimal system.

But that’s no longer the case for many Oakland schoolchildren. “A child could enroll today in a district elementary school and graduate from an OUSD high school without ever having the benefit of a school library,” said Oakland city Library Commissioner Ruby Bernstein, recalling a quote from Kari Hatch, the executive director of Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries.

Currently, Oakland Unified School District only funds two full-time and two part-time librarians for the entire city. OUSD’s Ann Gallagher — one of the full-time librarians — oversees the district’s libraries, librarians, technicians, and volunteers. She told me that California now ranks fiftieth in the country in terms of its ratio of students to librarians — and it’s a distant fiftieth. Some California school districts, however, have managed to keep most of their libraries open. Berkeley is using library technicians and San Francisco has held onto its librarians by splitting them among schools.

Gallagher said school libraries are particularly important because “children, especially children living in poverty, need access to free-choice reading,” and that “reading is more than drill and practice.” She believes that teachers are already too overloaded with curriculum tasks to also act as de facto librarians. Librarians also help train students to develop research skills in order to prepare them for college and careers.

Given these issues, Gallagher is working closely with Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries (FOPSL), whose mission is to resurrect the city’s closed school libraries. FOPSL started in 2009 as a dedicated group of volunteers in the Montclair Community Action Committee who organized a book drive for schools that had outdated collections. When they realized what a huge undertaking it would be to live up to their motto — “Every child deserves a quality school library” — they decided to incorporate as a nonprofit. From 2009 to 2011, before they incorporated, they managed to reopen eight public school libraries, including two at middle schools — all of them in Oakland’s flatland neighborhoods.

Hills schools have managed to reopen their libraries, hire librarians, and buy supplies thanks to fundraising from parents. Many well-to-do hills parents also have the time to volunteer in their libraries. FOPSL, by contrast, wants to reopen libraries in neighborhoods in which parents have fewer resources.

“Our goal is tangible and achievable,” Hatch said. So far, the group has worked to DSCN4167reopen more than twenty school libraries with the help of grants, community donations, corporate sponsorships, and partnerships with faith-based organizations. The reopened libraries also have received funding from Measure G, a parcel tax approved by Oakland voters in 2008. Measure G provides more than $55 per pupil, but the measure’s oversight committee has made the funding available only to elementary and middle schools, and not high schools, due to the limited amount of funds available.

Currently, Skyline High is the only high school in the district with a full-time librarian. The other high schools have decided to fund other essential services, although they’re still hoping to reopen their libraries in the future.

In an editorial last October in the Fremont High School student newspaper, the Green and Gold, students bemoaned their shuttered library as a place where rats roamed. However, construction has begun refurbishing the space, and there’s hope that it will be reopened next school year. Students told me that Castlemont’s library has a computer area, which they use for things like applying for college loans online, but that the rest of it is closed off. Oakland Tech has a clerk who can open the library on occasion, and Oakland High’s library is currently being used for online classes and as a meeting space.

The state takeover of Oakland public schools is partly to blame for the demise of local school libraries. In addition, budget cutbacks as the result of an education “flexibility” spending plan approved under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have made things worse. The change gave school districts more authority on how to spend taxpayer dollars. Many districts, including Oakland, decided to focus on basic education. That led to the elimination of adult education, along with funding for libraries, not only in Oakland but also in other cities.

But there is hope. Superintendent Tony Smith is currently considering a Library Equity Plan, which would reallocate Measure G funds. A pilot project to hire six professionally trained librarians is gaining traction with district administrators, while the reallocation plan would offer sixty district employees the opportunity to be retrained as library technicians who would be able to staff the newly stocked and refurbished libraries.

Library refurbished by Fopsl

Library refurbished by FOPSL

For those interested in joining or contributing to FOPSL, check out the group’s website at