Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 22, 2010

Around Town

ROLLING WITH SILVIO ... Rod Diridon, a member of the California High-Speed Rail Authority's Board of Directors, recently took a train ride in Italy with another public figure who knows a thing or two about facing public criticism: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The flashy prime minister, who over his long career survived a flurry of corruption allegations, made international headlines in December when a man threw a statue in his face at a political rally. Diridon assured his fellow board members that he had nothing to do with the statue attack, which occurred three days later. "But I can understand why he might be hit," Diridon added. "He goes into crowds and acts very much like Bill Clinton — running around the crowd and outrunning his security." Diridon, who attracted a flurry of criticism around Palo Alto over the past year for his blunt and unapologetic comments about the controversial project, said he joined Berlusconi for a high-speed-rail run from Rome to Milan. He called the train ride "quite enjoyable."

WAKE-UP CALL ... Woodside resident Joan Baez, who sang "We Shall Overcome" at Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington, sang it again Sunday along with the congregation at the Annual Community and Interfaith Celebration of King at Palo Alto's First United Methodist Church. Baez, who worked closely with King in civil-rights activities throughout the south, told of a time they were late for a rally and she was sent into the sleeping King's room to awaken him with a song. She sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" to awaken King, and sang it again for Sunday's standing-room-only crowd. At the podium with Baez Sunday were the Eastside College Preparatory Choir and Palo Alto High School student Alex Freeman, who performed King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech.

EATING IT UP ... Palo Alto's foodie bookworms now have a reason to rejoice. Food maven Michael Pollan's best-selling book "In Defense of Food: an Eater's Manifesto" was recently chosen as the 2010 book selection of Silicon Valley Reads, a countywide reading program that seeks to promote reading and a sense of community spirit. The book, which urges readers to eat more plants and to avoid food with complicated, multi-syllabic ingredients, is available for checkout at local libraries. Palo Alto libraries also plan to present three programs relating to Michael Pollan and responsibly eating. On Feb. 13, a PBS documentary based on Pollan's earlier book, "The Botany of Desire," will be screened at the Palo Alto Art Center. On Feb. 20, the Mitchell Park Community Center will host a P and T Puppet Theatre presentation of "Goldielocks and the Three Teddybears," which according to a city media release will feature the three bears "expounding on good food and making good choices." On March 12, researcher and agricultural expert John Jeavons will discuss effective gardening techniques at the Palo Alto Art Center. All events are free.

READ ALL ABOUT IT ... Palo Altans eager for fresh information about pressing local issues will soon have an easier time acquiring it in a timely manner. City Manager James Keene announced at the most recent City Council meeting that the city will soon begin releasing reports pertaining to council agendas on Wednesday nights — a day earlier than under current policy. This means residents will have all day Thursday and Friday to pick up city reports — well in time for Monday's City Council meeting where these reports would be discussed. The decision to release the information earlier is part of the city's process for getting the community more engaged in the city's policy-making process. "We want to start making some incremental improvements where we can," Keene said. The new policy is scheduled to take effect at the end of February, he said.

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