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Silicon Follies: The Sequel

And we thought 1998 was wacky

No Shit? Actually, I Prefer Solid Waste City, Capital of Crap

Gadfly Bill Garbett--once parodied in a local stage show as fictional cannibal Hannibal Lecter--submitted paperwork to the San Jose city attorney suggesting a ballot measure changing San Jose's name to "Faeces," an English variant of the word "feces."

When Politicans Do Math

In April the city of Campbell approved Phase One of the Vasona light-rail project, which will connect riders from downtown San Jose to downtown Campbell on a 4.8-mile stretch. The hitch? The projected daily ridership between the two stops is 9,000 people, but a scant 25 parking spaces are designated for the light rail and only 300 are slated in the proposed downtown parking structure. Silly, silly valley.

Winston Chow
Photograph by Christopher Gardner

In the End He Lost Everything, Even Love

Whatever happened to beloved South Bay Dumpster-diver Winston Chew? Chew, the junk collector who was issued abatements from San Jose and Campbell to clean up his yard last summer, is now free and clear. He laments the loss of several precious items, but is thankful his problems of hoarding junk have ceased. His neighbors' incessant complaining about his yard, however, has not. "Nobody came by and said, 'Job well done,' " he says. "They just glared at me, yelled at me. They hated me. They still hate me."

On Next Week's Agenda: Peace in Chechnya

No issue is too large, no injustice too grave for the Santa Cruz City Council to take on. Though our neighbors to the south failed to drum up support for a Hate-Free Zone ordinance, which was intended to liberate Surf City from evil vibes, the council did approve a resolution to free Tibet. Beijing, take note!


Get Out of Jail Free

Santa Clara County's jail, hailed as a high-tech corrections marvel when it was built in 1989, was foiled this year by a jailbreak that had all the silicon flash of a spaghetti western. The county's futuristic surveillance equipment and Space Age materials were outdone by a 26-year-old armed with a hacksaw blade and 18 knotted sheets.

Why Doesn't Anyone Ever Say 'Great America'?

After being acquitted of murder charges, Pink Poodle manager David Kuzinich told reporters he was going to Disneyland with his family.


Name: Larry Ellison

Crimes: breaking airport curfew, disturbing the peace and knowingly spreading Sleepus interruptus

Date of Birth: Aug. 17, 1944

Place of Birth: New York

Height: 6 feet

Weight: 175-185 pounds

Appearance: white male, finely coiffured

Occupation: millionaire playboy, Oracle Corp. chairman

Remarks: Ellison is wanted for landing his personal jet after midnight at San Jose International Airport, thus violating the city's curfew. He shows nothing but contempt for the law, describing the airport curfew as "wacky." He also owns a $25 million luxury yacht named Izanami, which backward spells "I'm a Nazi."

Approach with caution. He should be considered unarmed, but caustic and arrogant.


They Always Return to the Scene of the Crime

Later in the year, Kuzinich's acquitted Pink Poodle co-defendant, bouncer Steve Tausan, returned to the Hall of Justice--this time to hand out promotional materials for bail bonds.

Better Living Through Chemicals

Thanks to decades of high-priced spin, everyone thinks that semiconductor manufacturing is a clean industry. When an Islamic school fought to locate next to LSI Logic in Santa Clara, the school's attorney found himself in the odd position of arguing just that. But LSI attorneys begged to differ. Locating 400 children that close to the chip manufacturer was inviting disaster, the company argued. Perhaps the industry's PR machine is a bit too efficient. The judge sided with the school, agreeing that the toxic soup used to make chips was indeed just fine for kids.

And You Thought Understanding Soccer Rules Was Hard

The professional soccer team now known as the San Jose Earthquakes, which was formerly known as the San Jose Clash, is not the same team as the team that was originally known as the San Jose Earthquakes and is no longer around. That was another team. Announcing the name change this fall, Earthquakes/Clash/Whatever owners added that the new team logo will also show images of San Francisco and Oakland, which the team represents along with San Jose.


Do You Know How Much Sushi Costs in This Town?

Former Mercury News high-tech columnist Chris Nolan, who enjoyed a reported six-figure pay package, including guaranteed overtime hours, justified making an ethically questionable insider stock deal with this plea for compassion: "Frankly, I needed the money."

Electric Kool-Aid Carpool Test

Infoseek Chairman Steve Kirsch contributed $20,000 to campaign of Assemblyman Jim Cunneen (R-Campbell) after the governor signed a Cunneen bill allowing Kirsch to drive his electric car solo in the carpool lane during rush hour.


We're Pretty Sure the, ah, Personnel Will Agree to Do the Job at a, er, Substantially Reduced Rate

"Think globally, act locally" took on new meaning when Los Gatos Town Council members decided to explore the valley's version of cheap Third World labor: prisoner work programs. Facing a $20,000-plus estimate to repair an antique fire truck, Councilman Joe Pirzynski suggested exploring the "Corrections Department program" used by a Milpitas historical society to renovate an old truck of its own. In a discussion carefully void of words like "forced labor," "convicts" and "chain gangs," the town agreed to explore the idea. So far, the only downside to the program appears to be the need for open-ended project completion dates. "I understand they had a number of skilled mechanics," Pirzynski said of the Milpitas project. "Though they had to wait for a few to 'come on board.'"

Frank Taylor Cartoon

... And the Art World Recoiled in Terror

Longtime San Jose Redevelopment Director Frank Taylor, whose artistic sensibilities have gone mostly unappreciated (witness the Quetzalcoatl statue and all those stupid palm trees), told reporters at his goodbye press conference that he planned to dabble in painting and poetry after he retired.

What Is This, World Domination?

It was no coincidence that Starbucks was the headquarters of Dr. Evil, nemesis to shagadelic Austin Powers, in last summer's hit flick. The newest Dr. Evil outpost has besieged downtown Campbell along the same street as its nearest competitor, ultra suave Orchard Valley Coffee. But hey ... there's already a 'bucks shack on Winchester Boulevard and two directly across from each other in Campbell's Hamilton Plaza and San Jose's Bascom Square. Mere coincidence? We think not.


Oooh! They're So ... Big

Tony Ridder said his company wouldn't move to San Jose if it couldn't have a sign. This fall, he got his can-opener appendage to the downtown skyscraper that houses the media giant's corporate headquarters. Now everyone knows that Knight Ridder has San Jose's biggest sign on one of the South Bay's tallest buildings to advertise the country's second-largest information corporation. Could Tony Ridder be compensating for something?

Some of My Best Friends Are Black, Really

When the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to town hoping to push high-tech CEOs to hire more minorities, he was met with a warm Silicon Valley welcome. He's "the seagull that flies in, craps on everything and flies out," said T.J. Rodgers, the libertarian CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, once again proving the incalculable value of corporate sensitivity training.

Ron Gonzales For God's Sake, Does Anyone Have a Mint?

San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and a female bystander admirably tried to save a 59-year-old man who suffered a heart attack at the San Jose Municipal Golf Course. For reasons still unknown, Gonzales performed the mouth-to-mouth while the woman opted to pump the fallen man's chest. Doctors pronounced the man dead an hour later.

You Know, They Did All That With Smoke and Mirrors

Eight Broadway High School students and a robot named Blitz battled 300 student teams--and the odds--to win first place in the NASA Ames regional robotics tournament, then won a national award for "Achievement and Inspiration." These are the same hoodlums threatening the moral character of John Muir Middle School students, or so some John Muir parents would have us believe. A group of them just brought a lawsuit against San Jose Unified School District for planning to place the campus of Broadway High, a continuation high school, on the John Muir campus.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

On Oct. 26, the San Jose City Council honored Sgt. Jim Tomaino, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, for the union's work on the "Walk to End Domestic Violence." Ten years ago, Tomaino was charged with battery against his now ex-wife.

Hasn't Anyone Seen a Sports Bra Before?

The penalty kick. The roar of the crowd. The blond ponytail. (The U.S. team wins the Women's World Cup.) The shirt. The shirt on the grass! The sports bra! (This is the first American team to ever win the World Cup.) The cotton/lycra blend. The T-back. The swoosh! (The American men couldn't win the World Cup if it were served to them on crackers and little toasts.) The exposed midriff. The shirtless blonde! The blonde without a shirt! The swoosh! The shirt, the ponytail, the shirt, the swoosh ...

Jim Cunneen Besides, Some of My Best Friends Are Weasels

Assemblyman Jim Cunneen (R-Campbell) became a freedom fighter for some unlikely felons. Hint: They're smelly little weasels. "I don't own a ferret, but my only experiences with them have been positive," Cunneen says of his reasons for battling to legalize ferrets in the Golden State.

It's Not Nice to Fool With a Grandmotherly Nature

Elderly Gladys McDowell got duped into posting $9,600 cash plus the deed to her house to bail out Edward Silas Roundtree when he called her from jail in February posing as her grandson. All's well that ends well, though: Roundtree, who skipped town after McDowell shelled out the clams, was arrested in Stockton in November, and McDowell will not lose her house.

A Brave New Racket

Unconventional? Sure. Unethical? You betcha. And one hell of a lame special-section idea anyway. The Los Angeles Times published a special magazine singing the praises of the new multi-sports Staples Center, sold ads with the assistance of the Staples ad staff, and then planned to split the profits with guess who? That's right, the Staples Center. Who says advertisers and editors can't be friends?

Abraham Lincoln Abe Lincoln: Abolitionist, Union Preservationist, Bette Midler Fan

While DNA evidence that Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one child with African captive Sally Hemmings mounted, 1999 saw historians and gay activists peeking into the sexual closet of another American presidential icon: Abraham Lincoln. In May, writer and ACT UP founder Larry Kramer claimed he had evidence of a longtime homosexual relationship between Lincoln and Lincoln's law partner, Joshua Speed. Several Lincoln scholars back him up, including novelist Gore Vidal, saying they've suspected this all along.

In a Side-by-Side Taste Test, High School Students in San Jose Chose Pepsi Over American History Every Time!

In October, San Jose Unified School District officials sold exclusive beverage-selling rights to Pepsi for $5 million, guaranteeing the giant corporation the right to hawk sugar water on its campuses for 10 years with no competition from Coke. But they shoulda held out. San Jose's East Side Union High School District managed to force a bidding war between Coke and Pepsi for the same privilege. This month Pepsi won exclusive rights to East Side Union's 10 campuses for a whopping $11 million. Hey, speaking of Whoppers ...

Thank Goodness He Isn't the Slut of Hacienda Avenue

Everybody loves a nut, especially one that camps out in front of his driveway every week before Niners game day. Bill Dufur, Campbell's self-proclaimed "Nut of Hacienda Avenue," spends his retirement days alongside a wooden cutout of 49ers' mascot Sourdough Sam dressed in a rainbow-colored wig, white T-shirt and jeans, and a big, red foam finger. Bill waves, drivers honk--it's a beautiful thing.

Kathy Chavez Napoli Just Say No Some Other Way

Weary of accusations that "no" is all she knows how to say, City Council candidate Kathy Chavez Napoli tried to put a positive spin on her trademark naysaying in a press release, saying she "has announced her support for the widespread neighborhood opposition to the proposed Calpine power plant."

Merc Readers Confirm Doctors' Findings

After 49ers quarterback Steve Young suffered a concussion that ended his star-studded career, the discerning Mercury News readers weighed in and determined that, yes, Young really ought to retire and risk no further injury. Thanks, Doc, but I'd like a few thousand more opinions.

Cuz if Kids Start Readin', They'll Start Gittin' Ideas-- and We Don't Want 'Em Gittin' Ideas

Potter Mania swept the nation as author J.K. Rowling rode into towns across America to speak at sold-out book signings of her Harry Potter book series, which kids actually read. Bible Belt boards of education, however, say little sorcerer Harry is evil and kids shouldn't be reading the bewitching novels. Ban the books, say parents in Georgia and South Carolina. This way, kids can spend their free time doing something more productive ... like collecting weapon arsenals or firebombing houses.

Oops, I Sold Your Kidney!

Thanks to online auction house eBay, the old adage that "everything is for sale" is more true now than ever. But the price structure that's evolved is a bit disturbing. Bidding on a human testicle can start as low as $100. The unborn baby of two bright-eyed law students has brought in bids of $100,000. A human kidney can fetch as much as $5.7 million. The most valuable commodity of all? Five hundred pounds of Holland's best sticky green bud gaveled in at $10 million.

Joel Gambord Truly a Man of Action and Integrity

Around Monte Sereno, City Council member and retired developer Joel Gambord is known as the guy who moved into author John Steinbeck's house and gutted it--then gave the same treatment to the city's historic preservation ordinance by casting his vote with the "mind your own business" crowd. But look who turned preservationist once the 75-year-old house next to his vacation home in Carmel was slated for demolition! That's right, Joel Gambord. One group of neighbors already tried to derail the demolition but failed. So, as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, sergeant-at-arms and sole member of the new community superpower "Friends of Carmel Cultural Heritage," Gambord is fighting for his right to weigh in on his neighbor's architectural plans--in state appellate court, no less.

Verily, His Humility and Magnanimity Make Him Large in Stature, Yea, Large Enough to Dwarf All Other Men

Ordinarily, Monte Sereno City Council members politely take turns voting one another in as mayor and vice mayor, but last year the perpetually squabbling council skipped over the expectant duo of Joel Gambord and Gordon Knight. The two allies complained, but because the rotation process is informal, there was nothing they could do. When the same thing happened again this year, however, Gambord took action and yanked his endorsement of newly elected Mayor Suzanne Jackson, who's running for the 24th District Assembly seat. Gambord has contributed to her campaign, but now says he's supporting Los Gatos Mayor Steve Blanton in the Assembly race instead.


Former United Way CEO Eleanor Jacobs' 10 Pearls of Wisdom: Before and After the Bankruptcy Scandal

First Edition

#1 Believe. Believe in yourself and you can do whatever you set your mind to.

#2 Remember. Write down your list of past achievements.

#3 Decide. Choose a goal to work on first.

#4 Plan. Determine specific steps to achieve your goal. Dream about your goal.

#5 Actuate. Get off the dime. Move on your goal and launch your dreams.

#6 Habituate. Take at least one action on your plan each day.

#7 Pretend. Imagine how you will be once you achieve your goal.

#8 Refine. Using the image of yourself reaching your goal, smooth out any bumps in the picture.

#9 Claim. Tell yourself you deserve success.

#10 Expand. After achieving your small dreams, move on to bigger goals.

Revised Edition

#1 Believe. Believe in the power of credit and you can pay for anything.

#2 Remember. Remember to invite the Japanese royal family to at least one fundraiser.

#3 Decide. Choose a theme for the next fundraising event. (Note to self: "Evening on the Titanic" would be nice.)

#4 Plan. Determine specific menu items for the next fundraiser. Dream about prime rib and lobster and big checks coming in later.

#5 Actuate. Write fat bonus checks to retiring employees, no matter how little money you have in the bank.

#6 Habituate. Write at least one underfunded check to a local charity per week.

#7 Pretend. Imagine your organization actually has the assets to support your expenditures.

#8 Refine. Using the image of your organization being solvent, spend more money to polish its image.

#9 Claim. Tell the board members you had no idea anything was wrong.

#10 Expand. After tanking a regional branch of a national charity, consider going on a book tour.

Ford Excursion

Step on the Gas! I've Got a Planet to Save!

Last year, William C. Ford, grandson of assembly line innovator Henry Ford, promised to make Ford "the world's most environmentally friendly auto maker." But SUV-lovin' soccer moms worried about negotiating the off-road terrain between the field and the pizza parlor can rest easy: Only months after Ford's eco-friendly announcement, the auto maker released its new Excursion. The nine-seat, four-ton, 19-foot-long, 12-miles-per-gallon vision of Ralph Lauren-hewn machismo is about as sure to save the environment as ... say, the CEO of one of the world's largest auto makers.

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From the December 30, 1999-January 5, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 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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