Best of Silicon Valley 2001 - Editors' Picks

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Editors' Picks:
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Best Public Art of Yesteryear

Old Signs of San Jose
various locations

"What is Art?" ranks right up there in ponderables with "Is God a Woman?". It's a highly personal call. But we're talking public art here, and God only knows some of the nasty public art hangin' round these parts. Quetzalcoatl. Bares too much resemblance to um, floaters. What about Tony Ridder's bronzed Nikes at Guadalupe Park? Too corny. Is art fiberglass sharks? It's apparently a hazard to the handicapped, but lovingly embraced by people with poor taste and the editorial staff of the Mercury News. Leave 'em to the pigeons. I'd rather see nostalgic public art, especially the old signs: Andy's Pet Shop, Orchard Supply Hardware, De Anza Hotel's diving lady, Meat Products, and Time Deli. Check out the muffler man at Babe's & Lightning Muffler Service or the giant bucket of chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken on North Bascom Avenue. One glance at Colonel Sanders' painted face and bolo tie is enough to forget being unemployed, if only for a minute. GR


Best Way to Leave the Driving to Them

'How to Thrive on Public Transit in and About Santa Clara Valley' by Antony Nispel
Paidia Academic Press, San Jose
awnispel@earthlink.net

Now that the SUVs have gone to the gas-guzzlers' graveyard, a lot of PEPs (Previously Employed People) in the valley are rediscovering the virtues of public transit. To help newly readjusting commuters, Antony Nispel, a philosophy grad from San Jose SU, spends a lot of time on buses, trains and BART. His tricks and tips make for useful reading. A handy chart shows how to calculate the per-ticket savings of yearly, monthly and daily passes. For tips, Nispel notes that many students use public transit instead of the old-fashioned yellow buses, so "Avoid transit travel at an hour when school lets out"; and "Do not leave valuables on the bus!" (OK, that's just plain common sense, but these days that seems to be in short supply). In addition to his addiction to stopwatches and note taking, Nispel is also somewhat of a transit gadfly and supplies some appendixes with copies of his letters of complaint and cajolement to local, regional and state officials. All that's missing is a map with all those nifty route lines printed like arteries and veins on the city's grid. MSG


Best Marble Orchard

Oak Hill Memorial Park and Funeral Home
300 Curtner Ave., San Jose
408.297.2447

C'mon, are there really any challengers? Oak Hill has faithfully served San Joseans with the most ghoulishly gothic cemetery this side of Marilyn Manson's imagination. With its black iron gates on the outside and its gentle rolling hills of headstones on the inside, Oak Hill is a cemetery's cemetery. Call it the Wrigley Field of The Dead. And, for those natives who spent a few nights during their wily teenage years hopping the fence to party in the graveyard, Oak Hill will forever live in their hearts. Till death do them part. JB


Best Place to View Portrait of Vice-President Dick Cheney, Pre-Defibrillator

Robert F. Peckham Federal Building
280 S. First St., San Jose

One of the least reported-on stories in January 2001 was all the picture-changing taking place inside federal buildings throughout the land. After eight years, down went glossy portraits of Bill & Al, up went George & Dick. And oh, what a fine moment the photographer caught from the weak-hearted Vice President Dick Cheney, as evidenced in the lobby of the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building.

By the looks of it, a ruddy-faced Cheney is in the midst of his fourth heart attack. His left brow is furrowed deep and he's clenching his gums to squeeze out that unmistakable frog-smirk across his face. Cheney seems to be telling the photographer, "Just take ... the ... goddamn ... picture. ..."

Or, maybe Cheney was just pressed for time.

After all, he's got a country to run. JB


Best Phallic Symbol Outside a Church

That One Palm Tree
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph's
80 Market St., San Jose

Poor palm tree. The gardeners outside St. Joe's immaculate parish in downtown got the best of him and, gee whiz, even the most virtuous of nuns would notice that the tree now looks like a, um, 20-foot tall penis spewing out streams of palm leaves. The poor thing is even marked by a "distinguishable identifying characteristic," not unlike, allegedly, the King of Pop Michael Jackson and the King of Bop Bill Clinton. (OK, it's just a black dot on the shaft, about the size of a manhole cover--on the tree, not Jackson or Clinton.) What's more, just a few yards away on the opposite side of St. Joe's entrance is a perfect, full-headed, palm tree. The way God intended it, no doubt. JB


Best 'Mercury News' Mug Shot

Candace Murphy

It was three years ago when sports stud Bud Geracie first received this high award. Geracie was recognized for his enticing, writerly gaze that purred, "Read my column, won't you?" Since then, his colleagues have offered him much contest. There's "Mr. Roadshow" Gary Richards, who looks like he really, really, enjoys reporting about traffic--and is one helluva traffic reporter, indeed. Handsome Ann Killion always looks ... efficient. We like efficient. Mike Cassidy delivers his Silicon Valley Dispatches with the Where's Waldo look, and that's cool, too, in a sort of nerd-retro-hip way. And then there's Candace, reporting on all things pop-music. Candace has several things going on here, and that's why she's this year's champ. Candace's mug says, "Ohmygosh--are your taking my picture?"--and it also says-- "OK, this is kinda lame, but I'll do it"--and it also says--"Don't look too serious now, but keep it real"--which is a true accomplishment-not that we noticed anything. JB


Best Dead San Jose Artist with Panache Up the Ying Yang

Astley D. M. Cooper (1856-1924)
Oak Hill Memorial Park Cemetery--Section O, San Jose

A.D.M. Cooper's gravestone, at Oak Hill Memorial Cemetery, is unkempt and broken. In life he burned bright and large, and was a force to be reckoned with in stubby San Jose. Immaculately coiffed and attired in the finest garb, he was relentless in his pursuit of good times--often in taverns--and fearless in his dealings with people. His studio resembled an Egyptian temple. When Jane Stanford started giving him crap because he was drinking while painting, he told her where to get off. He was internationally known for his paintings of Western themes, especially Indians, and it is said he paid off bar tabs with paintings of nudes. A Cooper hangs in the California Room in the San Jose Main Library. An Indian, not a nude. EC


Best Ex-'Mercury News' Reporter Still Stirring Things Up

Harry Farrell

Harry Farrell retired from the San Jose Mercury News in 1986, after 44 years of wordsmithing as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the author of Swift Justice, a superb account of the 1933 lynching in St. James Park. And he can still stir things up if sufficiently riled and motivated by San Jose politicians running amok. His letters to the editor in the Mercury News often accuse malefactors of "a sad ignorance of San Jose history." Harry recently opined that the San Jose Airport should not be renamed after a politician, because it is San Jose's airport and not a plum to be awarded to political cronies. He was ignored, of course. In 50 years or so, after San Jose has been sold to the highest bidder, Harry Farrell will still be remembered. EC


Best Local Blooper

Joel Bartlett, Meteorologist
Channel 7 News

Usually, the on-air chit-chat among news anchors is a banal competition in phoniness, but every once in a while a slip-up occurs, and viewers get a rare glimpse of the men and women under the makeup. Earlier this summer, the beloved marker-twirlin' Joel Bartlett launched into his sunny segment plugging the Saratoga Arts and Crafts festival with a suggestion, "Yes, folks, it's a great day to expose yourself to art!" (Pause) Waiter, one crow please.

Bartlett attempted to play through, but a chorus of behind-the-camera chuckles choked his game. The red-faced weatherman was so ruffled, he reported a heat wave in "Las Vegas, California," then pleaded to the camera, "I'll return to a sense of professionalism sometime soon." But it was too late. Wrapping up with the five-day forecast, Bartlett made it to the first day before he broke down in a fit of laughs and tears before he walked off the set. Wouldn't want a genuine moment caught on camera, after all. JB


Best Dumping Ground for Politically Incorrect and Unwanted San Jose Statues

A Warehouse in Oakland
Somewhere in Oakland

This was a close call, as St. James Park has been the traditional drop-off point for outdated and unloved statuary like President McKinley and his ilk, not to mention being the preferred social gathering spot for Silicon Valley's drug addicts, prostitutes and leisured indigents. But Oakland ekes out a narrow margin of victory for housing, or warehousing, an $800,000 statue of former San Jose Mayor Captain Thomas Fallon. Tom is entombed for conduct unbecoming a San Jose mayor. Charges include cannibalism, human sacrifice, genocide, being mean to women, and raising the American flag in San Jose during the Mexican-American war of 1846. In another 100 years, Tom's performance will be reappraised, and he may be a hero again. Or melted into scrap for Quetzalcoatl II. EC


Best of Silicon Valley 2001 Table of Contents


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From the October 18-24, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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