Private Yoga Class, Unintended

There’s a first for everything.  Tonight I showed up for a yoga class, and was the only one present and accounted for.

My instructor soundly rejected my offer to leave and seemed happy to lead a private class.  It turns out that Mountain Yoga (map) sticks to scheduled practices, very nice!

Anjas-Art

Usually I’m one of the crowd, trying hard to relax and not stick out.  So having a private class – really a one-on-one session – made me nervous.  Of course, that anxiety vanished about five minutes into the 1.5 hour class.

Okay, I think that I may be hooked here.  Was this because of the attention or due to Anja Borgstrom’s approach?  She leads pre/post natal classes, as well as other relaxing practices for folks who want some of that yoga bliss.  All I can say is this feeling was delivered in spades tonight.

After class, I decided to check out Anja’s website and discovered her artwork too.  It’s time to repay the kindness by sharing the yoga poses above – or click here to see a more complete art gallery.  Namaste and all that stuff.

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Blue Political Views In Montclair

When you live in Montclair Village, you can’t avoid the running chatter and obvious influences of living in Oakland and playing next-door neighbor to Berkeley.

If an archeologist landed here, would he or she be able to understand the political zeitgeist by the evidence we leave in our wake?  The easy answer is yes, and he doesn’t have to dig very deep either.

Let’s look at some of the left-leaning signs around town.  This first photo is located at Montclair’s ground zero:  the Mountain and Antioch intersection.  You may have walked by the stop sign a thousand times, and it actually says “Stop Bush.”

Stop-Bush-Sign-Montclair

The next piece of evidence is a cryptic message scribbled outside McCalou’s Department Store.  There’s pretty much zero graffiti around town but this little message must mean something.  Does it say Joker?  Remember the outside world?  Is it meaningful or just a little tease?

A-Little-Graffiti-Montclair

The last evidence relates to our newspaper choices.  While the Oakland Tribune is probably nearby, there are other options here.  First, the Berkeley Daily Planet appears to be empty.  You can see the San Jose Mercury News peeking out and still available.  There’s also a broken door from the New York Times, which could mean the news isn’t getting delivered?  Not sure.

Newspaper-Choices-Montclair

With these three pieces of evidence, perhaps there might be something pretty funny to say about Montclarions.  We are obviously left-leaning on the political spectrum – and it’s entertaining to see this play out in the Village.  There are red and blue people here, but the bias is clear.

Should Montclarions Commune Virtually?

Should we commune virtually, and have a social network to call our very own?

Today in Montclair limits the two-way conversation, due to the blog format.  We find something interesting to share almost every day, and are amazed by the traffic from Montclarions and other Oaklanders.  You send over all kind of ideas and questions, and I try to post items based on what’s interesting to you – but that’s only one posting a day.

Where do you go to ask a quick local question?  It feels like our virtual options are limited today.  Montclair Safety (MSIC) runs a Yahoo group that focuses on safety and crime matters.   Yelp provides user-contributed reviews about restaurants and some retail shops.  There seems to be a gap here.

Montclair-Social-Site

Let’s try out a real Montclair social network, where anything goes.  We just set up this site – http://montclairoak.ning.com – and encourage you to join and post messages to everyone.  It’s a pretty simple way to share questions, comments, events or even photos.  You even have “your own” pages to use.

Right now, your faithful Montclair blogger is there with a few others – and I’m officially rolling out the welcome mat.  Remember this social network succeeds if you and your neighbors have reasons to use it.  I’ll report back here about what happens…stay tuned.

More info:   Check out the specific resources on the site, through this quick tour.

Last Day For Dunsmuir Xmas

Around the East Bay, Dunsmuir Mansion is really the “go to” spot for holiday cheer.  For the past 38 years, this has been the ideal time to check out the place – filled with 35 rooms of decorations.

Now there’s just one day left to visit, Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm.  The mansion’s located at 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct. (map, directions), and worth a quick trip down Rt. 580 tomorrow.

Dunsmuir Xmas

Of course, volunteers began the decorations in October because there’s so much work involved.  This is a mansion from another era, and worth the loving efforts by these decorators.  According to the Tribune, it takes 5,000 hours to get ready.  Kind of amazing!

Since the weather’s supposed to turn frightful on Sunday, this should be your indoors destination of choice.  Edwardian-dressed docents lead tours through the mansion all day long, and expect to be serenaded by live music too.

Other things going on at Dunsmuir?  You can sign up for a formal tea-time, served at 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm for teens/adults (14+).   There’s holiday gifts for sale in the carriage house.  And if the weather’s not too bad, there will be a trolley ride through the estate grounds.

While tickets are pricey, this is the prime fundraiser for maintaining the mansion.  Admission runs $17/adult, $16/seniors (62+), $13/junior (6-13), and free/tots (under 6) at the gate.   If you buy online today, then you incur a $7 order fee but save $5 per ticket.  High teas cost another $25/person, and require advanced reservations.

What If An HBO Hit Featured Oakland?

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing lately about a potential HBO series that prominently features Oakland, in all its glory.  This series would follow an old-school pimp and his challenges as he deals with younger, more violent pimps.

The Hughes Brothers, who produced and directed American Pimp (1999) and Dead Presidents (1995), announced their upcoming dramatic HBO series entitled Gentlemen of Leisure last summer.  If all goes according to plan, the first pilot and episodes would air sometime next year.

In the Hollywood Reporter, scriptwriter Evan Reilly explained the series focuses on “a guy who wants to get out but keeps getting sucked back in by the allure of the game and by extraneous circumstances that have to do with his family.”

American Pimp

Ami Zins heads the Oakland Film Office, which supports movie, TV and commercial production here.  She confirmed that scriptwriter Reilly and executive producer Polly Anthony reached her about the project.  For HBO, this dramatic one-hour series ideally fills the The Sopranos gap.

If green-lighted, this series would film on location.  Zins said the producer identified Oakland as “a character unto itself…with a great diversity of people, culture, arts, architecture and geography.”  While the economic impact isn’t known yet, she pointed to The Wired (HBO) which contributes $35 million/season to Baltimore.

What’s the downside for Oakland?  You could quickly denounce it based on the subject matter alone, since Oakland becomes the land of pimps and prostitutes.  Hollywood is possibly glorifying this crime-ridden life as well.  However, I happen to believe that crime becomes a back-drop for the series and its characters.

Folks living in New Jersey probably had the same concerns when The Sopranos began airing.  The subject matter was about mafia violence, but somehow managed to work anyway.  This acclaimed series drew you into the dark drama and family dynamics over time.

(Full disclosure is that I used to work, long ago, for an HBO competitor.  Getting a top-quality series on HBO is a real coup because they aren’t subject to the pressures of network TV.  Simply put, critically acclaimed fare can survive without a mass audience and advertising there.)

So here’s an opportunity to bring Oakland into the American culture more prominently, warts and all.  It’s admittedly very grimy, and every major city in the world has an underbelly.  Will this transform Oakland into an unacceptable place on earth?  Somehow I doubt it.  If the series really gets aired, this isn’t bad for our city at all.

Dec 23rd Update:  News outlets and blogs are buzzing, and we recommend these original takes from  CBS5KTVUOakland TribuneEast Bay ExpressOakbookA Better OaklandBrooklyn AvenueBicostal Bitchin’

Stop By For Gregorian Chants, Friday at 8pm

For the holiday season, there’s more than just the typical Christmas carols in Montclair.  Stop by the Montclair Presbyterian Church for some nice and peaceful Gregorian chants, too.

The Women’s Antique Vocal Ensemble (WAVE) will be the featured group tomorrow night.  WAVE consists of 14 singers who perform authentic music from the medieval, baroque and renaissance periods.  They first met nine years ago, after discovering their mutual love of this music through the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS).

On Friday, WAVE will also join forces with Catholic seminarians from St. Albert’s Priory in Rockridge.  This priory is a Dominican training ground, with students living at the school.  Since they participate in active prayers, Gregorian chants are quite familiar to the students – and their Schola Cantorum group will appear in Montclair.

Shepherds Arise

During this concert, both women and men will sing or chant plenty of traditional music.  WAVE says they plan to “perform Gregorian chant from the 9th century and music by Plummer, Monteverdi, Costeley, Hassler, Menotti, Ramirez, Niles, and Rutter as well as traditional Christmas carols.”  Whoever they are.

To me, choral music ushers in the holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.  You don’t have to be an ancient music aficionado to bask in the glow of nice a cappella voices.  I’m sure you will recognize a few tunes along the way, anyway.

To recap:   The Shepherds Arise! concert takes place on Friday at 8pm, at the Montclair Presbyterian Church (5701 Thornhill Drive, map).   While admission runs $15 per adult and $5 per student/senior, this is a special Christmas concert that should be very relaxing.

Yes Virginia, It Snows In Oakland

Since snow is such a rare event around here, everyone went a bit crazy this week when the white stuff started falling.  Heck, it even stuck on the ground for a short while.

What happens when it snows?   Everyone grins with disbelief, that we are graced with snow right now.  Some transform into kids again, and just have to play with the snow.  Since it’s so ephemeral, a lot of people pick up their cameras.  Here’s a quick retrospective from local TV stations and neighbors.

Let’s start with this little boy in Montclair who’s just watching the action from his deck – and which looks like Tahoe and not the Oakland Hills.  The video shows the stuff falling, the little boy checking things out, and a few declarations of “cool” from the boy and his sibling.

Montclair Joy Of Snow

We also have a snowball thrower or two because, well, that’s standard operating procedure with snow.  In this raw footage from CBS5-TV, you see a guy and gal venturing out to the snow-dusted Tilden Park hillside.  The gal eventually reaches down, quickly gathers enough snow, and tosses the snowball at her buddy.  Mission accomplished.

First Toss Gathering Snow

Here’s an action shot, taken up on Grizzly Peak Blvd yesterday.  The snowball is clearly captured in mid-air, a few feet from the thrower.  Meanwhile his companion almost looks ready to catch it, but not sure why.  Also check out the small snowman which stands near the catcher.

First Toss In Air

Next we head a bit south to the Oakland Hills Swim Club, which has been dubbed “Oakland Hills Snow Club” by the YouTuber.  Right outside the entrance, there’s plenty of contrast so you witness the snowfall underway.  It’s coming down pretty quickly at this point.

Oakland Hills Swim Club

There’s plenty of white stuff at the Swim Club, which sits at 1,350 ft above sea level.  Even this bush is nicely decorated by Mother Nature, don’t you think?  I don’t know if this plant is well-suited for deep winter but it should survive the short-term onslaught.

Oakland Hills Snow Bush

So there you have it:  the snows of 2008 right in our Oakland backyard.  It’s so rare and incongruous in Oakland, the land of perfect weather.  Well, a little snow fits that definition too.