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The editorial board at KSBW-TV must still be waiting for an apology from the folks who blocked traffic on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

With all the pent-up rage of Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski character chasing his Hmong neighbors off his lawn, Joseph Heston, the animated embodiment of KSBW’s editorial board, on Friday unleashed a stern finger wag to UC Santa Cruz students who blocked traffic on Highway 17 near Santa Cruz back in March. Heston and the editorial board are furious because the students failed to “apologize for their incredibly reckless behavior.

The six students were in court last week to plead no contest to misdemeanor charges of creating a public nuisance. Their misdemeanors were committed in March, when they chained themselves to concrete-filled bins they had placed on the highway to bring attention to tuition increases in the UC system.

Heston was apparently expecting expressions of “real remorse” from the students, but he was sorely disappointed.

Ever the reliable defender of commerce and the status quo, Heston went so far as to proffer his own two-bit psychological diagnosis of the Santa Cruz students.

“Perhaps it comes from being a part of a generation that grew up being awarded blue ribbons no matter who actually won the race,” blustered the telegenic amateur Freudian, apropos of nothing. “Or, when acting out in kindergarten or elementary school, the misbehavior was excused as the child’s just expressing his or her true feelings.”


A group of activists, overly entitled according to toad’s standards, commemorates the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., a landmark event in the Civil Rights Movement. The movement went on to considerable success. Little is remembered about the traffic troubles of the time.

As far as local media pundits go, nothing stirs the jaundice worse than a bad traffic jam. Unless, of course, the traffic jams are created in the interests of golf tournaments, food festivals and fancy car shows. They are the sorts of events we should apparently all get behind because their participants aren’t liable to go all social-justice crazy on us.

Six weeks ago, another student protest tied up Saturday traffic on Highway 1 on the Monterey Peninsula. I got caught up in that particular jam, but it didn’t seem much worse than the usual strangulated highway situation on any typical Monterey weekend.

Admittedly, the issue of tuition hikes doesn’t exactly reverberate like the civil rights violations that students in Alabama were protesting when they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma back in 1965, an event that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Still, I would imagine the manager of the Selma television station at the time must have been livid that young and uppity whipper-snappers possessed the temerity to raise awareness for their cause by tying up traffic without an apology.

Rather than showing remorse, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee continued their peaceful protests and eventually succeeded in pushing for the Voting Rights Act. Or, as Heston might have said at the time (as he did in his editorial on Friday), they “pontificated about the lack of justice and proclaimed their ultimate righteousness.”

As I recall, the Civil Rights Movement grew out of a generation in which blue ribbons weren’t awarded to everyone because of their race.

Livernois, a former editor of the Monterey Herald, is the author of “The Road to Guanajuato.”


Oscar - trofeo doratoIt was impossible to dip into the muddy waters of current events this week without being socked in the jaw by the realization that plenty of people, once again, are hopping mad about the Oscar nominations.

This year’s anger centered on the complete absence of actors of color from the nominees for the top acting awards, a phenomenon not seen since 1998.

I forget why everyone was ticked off last year when the Academy of Whatever announced the Oscar-worthy films and film people.

But I have no doubt there was great debate about how blind the academy voters — whoever they are — were by snubbing this or that film, actor or sound editor (not really, there is never the slightest kerfuffle over sound editing nominees, an ironic zone of silence amid the annual Oscar shout-fest.)

I have two theories about why Oscar nominations spur more vein-popping debate every year than, say, weightier issues like the widening income gap, state-sanctioned torture or the ethical considerations of buying Cuban cigars under the Obama administration’s new namby-bamby policy toward Castro’s Communist Cuba.

  1. A terrific outcry about who makes and who doesn’t make the coveted Oscar ballot generates more free buzz about more movies than if everyone were happy with the nominees. This is probably deliberate, a clever tactic devised by an industry that has cooked up nearly every trick in the heavy footlocker of press agentry.
  2. An abiding division among film cognoscenti set in motion by Marlon Brando in 1973 when, to demonstrate his solidarity with the American Indian Movement, he dispatched Salinas-born Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to the awards ceremony to make the acceptance speech in his place for Brando’s magnificent mumbling in “The Godfather.”

This “right on” moment didn’t sit well with all the folks in tuxes and fancy dresses instead of buckskin and feathers and forever politicized all things Oscar.

Personally, I care very little about the Oscars, the awards ceremony, the beautiful people on the red carpet, or the tendentious acceptance speeches by the winners. I have never clipped out an Oscars ballot from a newspaper features section nor have I attended an Oscar party to watch the televised ceremony with a bunch of overdressed movie buffs.

I blame my overall grumpy attitude about the Academy Awards on Country Joe, lead singer for the Berkeley-based psychedelic band Country Joe and the Fish, one of those no-hit groups from the 1960s whose ridiculous claim to fame was to lead audiences to spell out the F-word at the tops of their cannabanoid-soaked lungs. Right on.

When I was young and impressionable, I caught CJ and the Fish at the Santa Cruz Civic auditorium in a concert one night in the early 1970s right after that distant year’s Academy Awards show.

Between songs, as he attempted to discern the tuning pegs on his guitar from the chemically induced waves of energy flashing around the stage, Country Joe rasped into the microphone,

“Did you see all those Hollywood sleazoids on television last night?”

Well, no I hadn’t. But I caught C. Joe’s disdainful drift. And ever since I’ve shied away from all things Oscar because of that long-ago insinuation that the whole deal is loaded with sleazoid cooties. Silly, yes, but true.

That is not to say I don’t enjoy some of the movies “honored” by the academy. In the past few years, I have seen and enjoyed the films “Nebraska,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Lincoln,” “Argo,” and, yes, even 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love.”

But I don’t make a point of seeing all the “best pictures” to personally judge my taste against the taste of the academy voters. It would be an exercise in self-reinforcement. Like most people, particularly movie buffs, I know I’m right and everyone else is wrong.

I still think 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” got shafted by winning only four Oscars, and none of them in major categories. Those darn sleazoids. They’ll always put a good rabbit down.

I intend the see “Selma,” one this year’s best picture nominees about Martin Luther King Jr. and the battle to ensure voting rights for black Americans. Lots of folks are mad because its director and star were snubbed by the academy voters. There are others ticked by its portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson.

I just want to see “Selma” for its portrayal of a great American story of courage, faith and daring. Who knows, what with Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and many states giddily restricting voters’ enfranchisement anew, there may well be room for what Hollywood likes best: the sequel.