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September 27-October 3, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

And Don't Forget to Try The Veal

Corny jokes flew left and right at last week's Rotary Club meeting, which featured a face-off between mayoral candidates Chuck Reed and Cindy Chavez. Reed launched one of his monotone missiles after being asked what he planned to do about San Jose's $70 million budget deficit. "Well, I'm going to start by taking up a collection at Rotary," he answered with a half-grin. Despite Fly's stifled groans, the quip earned a trickle of laughter from club members seated in the scenic banquet hall atop downtown's Fourth Street Garage. The moderator, Dr. Gary Silver, inserted cheeky remarks into his committee-approved questions all afternoon. Hey, can you blame the guy for getting a little restless while being sandwiched between polar-opposite rivals? After Chavez spoke about the bright future of San Jose riding on the cutting edge of technology, Silver said, "Talk about 'cutting edge' always gets my attention." A round of snickers rose from a few tables, while people who didn't get the inside joke exchanged bewildered looks. Here's what they were missing: Dr. Silver is a heart surgeon. Rim shot! Thanks, he'll be here all week! Anyway, after the fireworks died down and Rotary-goers dispersed, Pete Constant surprised Fly with a refreshingly funny flare. The newly elected District 1 representative is just itching to hop into his City Hall office come Jan. 1 (move over, Linda). "It's like being all dressed up with nowhere to go," he said breathlessly. Wow, we hope he didn't mean that literally. The soon-to-be-councilmember was sporting faded khakis and pastel stripes.

Next Year: Spitball

Maybe if Imam Tahir, spiritual leader of the South Bay Islamic Association, and Temple Emanu-El's Rabbi Dana had announced that they were going to arm wrestle at downtown's Circle of Palms last Thursday, they could have gotten some mainstream news coverage. But at a time when religious strife is constantly at the top of the news, it seemed a little strange that no one considered the Southbay Interfaith's International Day of Peace event newsworthy. The coalition of 30 groups brought local Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Wiccans together to pray and break bread in celebration of the United Nations holiday. Fly swayed to the Church of Latter Day Saints' Zion youth chorus and was verklempt during the candle-lighting ceremony, feasted on samosas and fruit, broke challah with Gandhi Camp leaders, chatted up Notre Dame high schoolers and saw no mayoral candidates among the 300 attendees. During the interfaith Call to Worship, Fly also noticed employees looking down from the Knight-Ridder building, which overlooks the Circle of Palms, the plaza on Market Street next to the art museum, and tried to wave them down no avail. Organizers told Fly that they are willing to bill this annual event as a spitball fight between Muslims and Jews next year, if that's what it will take to bring more attention to it.

Pay to Play

The biggest buzz among hard-core board-game enthusiasts is the recent revelation that a new version of Monopoly, the childhood classic, will be released in a new version that will have as its tokens ads for corporate sponsors such as Starbucks and McDonald's. We all know the classic Monopoly tokens and all have our favorites—the thimble, the iron, the top hat, the battleship, the Scottish terrier—but now, gamers can choose from an order of McDonald's fries, a cup of Starbucks coffee, a New Balance sneaker and others. Purists loyal to the venerable board game, introduced in 1935 by Parker Brothers, are in an uproar. Corporate sponsorship, they say, is diluting the timeless lessons of thrift and business savvy that have long been part of the game. But, noticed Fly, there's no need for purists to battle Hasbro, the current producer of Monopoly, over this new version. Corporate sponsorship and Monopoly are already well intertwined in Silicon Valley. After all, San Jose's giant Monopoly game, on the park adjacent to the Children's Discovery Museum, already has corporate sponsorships (and a licensing agreement with Hasbro to use Monopoly imagery). For a mere $5,000 a year, any company can have its named engraved on a Monopoly property. For a cool 20 grand, you can keep your company's name there for five years. Currently, the first Community Chest is leased to the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, and the "Go" square has been paid for by the Children's Discovery Museum, the sought-after Park Place by Terrence J. Rose (a real estate investment company), the Pennsylvania property by Hotel De Anza and La Pastaia, and Ventnor by Barry Swenson Builder. And until it went bankrupt, says Dan Orloff, the president of Orloff/Williams and a prime mover behind the board, the Electric Company was paid for by Calpine. While the money that is derived from the sponsorships actually goes to a good cause (further beautification of San Jose, including a second phase of the Monopoly game), the whiff of corporate PR is unavoidable. There's no word yet if there are plans to introduce a giant Starbucks latte to the San Jose game in the wake of the latest version of the game by Hasbro. "I haven't experienced that concern," Jill Cody, known as the Mother of Monopoly in the Park, tells Fly when asked if the corporate sponsorships available on San Jose's giant board rubbed folks the wrong way. "It's sort of our time that sponsors are building brand and image; we've never had that as a negative issue."

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