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Bruce Bratton

[whitespace] Nisene Marks area
Covello & Covello Historical Photo Collection

One of the Big Ones: I have no idea when or where this was taken: probably around 1890 and possibly in the Nisene Marks area. The nine hard-working loggers sitting there remind us how huge those redwoods were before the invention of 'sustainable harvesting' or whatever they now call clearcutting.

ABOUT BORDERS DOWNTOWN. Once upon a time, businesses cared about good will and being part of the community. And once upon a time, customers cared about the reputation behind the stores they shopped in. Now it's all about making or saving a buck. On another point: once upon a time, communities, Santa Cruz included, would stop a business from opening based solely on the appropriateness of that business (i.e., Frenchy's on Pacific Avenue). Doesn't it seem that we could simply say no to Borders locating downtown based on community wishes? We can certainly require them to have public toilets and to pay an annual percentage of the gross to the arts community, and we can impose other requirements that have been lacking from past developers. Then, too, there are a few communities in the New England area that have successfully resisted all chain businesses. Why can't we begin that concept now? I worry about our downtown becoming such a collection of franchises and chains that it will have absolutely no interest to locals or even the almighty tourists. When was the last time you or your friends said, "Hey, let's go see Starbucks--or 'Wow, have you seen the Gap in that city?" Can't we hold out for some semblance of character and uniqueness, especially in our bookstores? Did you know that there are no major independent bookstores left in New York City? Besides that, when we talk about how Crown Books didn't make it downtown, do we remember that the entire chain was in deep financial trouble--it wasn't really our clever boycotting or local marketing that did it. Borders can stay in place for years with their cost-cutting publisher book deals, long after any of our protests die out.

MEDIOCRE MOVIES. How many bad movies can they make? You gotta admit right about now is the absolute worst time of the entire year for movies. But Bowfinger does have some laughs, and it does remind us that Eddie Murphy can be very funny. This isn't the best film he or Steve Martin has ever made, but it does have about three laughs. Brokedown Palace is exactly the story we saw in the previews, or trailers as they say in Hollywood, except for the minor surprise at the ending, which is a plot cop-out no matter how you look at it; wait and rent it. Trick is half funny, mildly interesting and full of the usual gay clichés. The Adventures of Sebastian Cole features several well-imagined characters in search of a plot--don't go. The music for the film is by Elizabeth Swados, and where do we know that name from  ... anybody know?

YOUNG AT ART. Seeing the Young at Art tent at the Cabrillo Music Festival, with its five morning and five afternoon workshops, reminded me of how fantastic Young at Art used to be. I went to Harbor High School two years ago and watched a huge amount of kids and parents and teachers, and performers and volunteers by the hundreds, put together the most creative community event I'd ever seen. Because the corporate sponsor dropped out and other decisions were made, Young at Art has been reduced to this little tent that is scheduled to be erected at three sites per year. It's better than nothing, but we need another corporate sponsor to empty its petty-cash drawer and add new life to this magnificent art experience for our kids.

NEW THEATRE OVER LIGHTLY. I went to Watsonville's new Green Valley Cinema 6 to see The Iron Giant, which is a well-done animated children's film not from Disney. That means no stupid little singing animals and no insipid heroine, just an imaginative story cleverly adapted from the book. The book was written by Sylvia Plath's husband, by the way. Hank Garcia's new theatre (he also owns The Fox in downtown Watsonville) is as nice as any multiplex theatre I've ever seen. The two largest theatres each have 200-plus stadium seats; three theatres have 150 seats; and the littlest one has 112 seats. Veteran theatre manager Chris Garcia manages everything, including the six projectors, and does a fine job. The Cinema is just down Green Valley road from Orchard Supply.

GOATS THAT GLOW. Santa Cruz Biotechnology now has an enormous goat-raising business on Back Ranch Road a few miles north of the city off Highway 1. The owners, John and Brenda Stephenson, have consistently skirted county regulations in creating this goat factory. The Sierra Club, Friends of the North Coast, the Environmental Council, the Surfrider Foundation, the Rural Bonny Doon Association, Save Our Shores and other organizations all gave testimony last week trying to stop SCB from damaging the ecological system even more than it already has. The next project the Stephensons have planned is a horse barn. If built, this barn will be in full view of Wilder Ranch State Park, and according to the groups opposing it, the horse barn is a coverup for another goat barn. Here's another problem with district representation--how many people in the other county districts care about this goat factory? If enough did care or knew about it, they'd get their county supervisor to vote against it and our entire county would have more clout in enforcing and dealing with these environmental threats. In the meantime, call the Friends of the North Coast at 427-1143 and get involved, or at least show that you care beyond your backyard.

CREATING CITY DISTRICTS. One of the most significant problems with creating seven separate districts with seven separate councilpersons is exactly the same problem we have with our county districts. Rather than having a shared knowledge and overview of the area's problems, needs and solutions, each district representative is largely uninvolved and uninformed about issues not in his or her district. We saw that recently with Watsonville not knowing enough about the biotech goat factory mentioned above. We've heard for years complaints about "other supervisors or other districts" dumping their land-use problems on Live Oak. That's exactly what would happen in Santa Cruz with separate districts. The Santa Cruz Neighborhoods 2000 group has created a very conservative First District that includes Prospect Heights, Morrissey Avenue and DeLaveaga Drive. Try your hardest to figure out the political relationship of that First District to the new Fifth District, which just happens to be the entire UCSC campus according to the SCN 2000 map. Remember, too, citizens, that right now three of the seven City Council folk live east of Ocean Street. And while you're thinking about it, realize too that the typical problem is not really qualified district representatives but finding any qualified individuals from anywhere in the city who want to serve. To restrict that search to specific districts would make for poorer quality representation, not better.

OUT-OF-TOWN MUSIC AND MUSICIANS. One of the finest benefits we get from the Cabrillo Music Festival is the out-of-town influence. Being a small, isolated community, we have to struggle hard to even be close to being in any loop of creativity. Marin Alsop brings us many fine East Coast composers and some West Coasters too--that's important not just for passive listening but for any composers who need and seek contemporary influences. Our Museum of Art and History works hard to keep a balance of local and out-of-town art. Right now, there's about a 50/50 ratio at MAH, and that's just fine. The only problem is that not enough locals have tuned into making MAH or the Cabrillo Festival part of their lives--maybe later.

WEBSITES. Any longtime readers of this colm know that I'm quite new to the world of Internet, email and that sort of thing. What is really exciting is to find all these great new resource sites that aren't found in books or anywhere else. For instance, Robert Commanday, longtime music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, has created a site for reviews of classical-music performances in the San Francisco area. I met Sarah Cahill, his correspondent, at the Mission in San Juan Bautista during the Cabrillo Music Festival. Check out the site at SFCV.org. If you like the out-of-doors and seeing some superior views in 360 degrees, punch in www.virtual parks.com--you'll be amazed. Seniors should know about www.thirdage.com, and I'll mention more on it later. Send me those unique websites you find, and I'll share them here. (I've run out of bumper stickers and palindromes.)

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From the August 25-September 1, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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