ALIVE Goes Mobile with the “ALIVE Marketplace”

Photo by Eric Johnson of HapMagee Park taken on 12.07.09

We have some very exciting news for our loyal readers and advertisers!

First off, for readers: our ALIVE website has been completely re-designed (you’re here!). Our new site is more user-friendly, offering a comprehensive array of features and options that we know you will love.

Next, we have a soon-to-be operational innovation to assist both readers and advertisers called The ALIVE Marketplace. More than just a website, the ALIVE Marketplace ( will provide a resource whereby the businesses and services that advertise in ALIVE provide exclusive—and we really mean exclusive—discounts and special offers to ALIVE readers. The site will include a dedicated webpage for each and every business that you find in ALIVE Magazine—each one packed with valuable information and offers you can’t get anywhere else.

In addition to all of this, the ALIVE Marketplace will soon be available at your fingertips, through our ALIVE Marketplace Mobile Device Application (see our ad on the opposite page). You’ll be able to download the ALIVE Marketplace app to your mobile device for free, and use it to locate participating businesses that are close to your location.

Through this mobile app, you’ll have access to significant savings and special promotions offered by the fine businesses and services found in ALIVE.

In these challenging economic times, we all need all the help we can get. If you’re a consumer, you’re looking for the best value; if you’re a business owner, you’re looking for more customers. ALIVE Magazine is excited to be able to help fulfill both needs, through the ALIVE Marketplace!

Trivial Matters

Ben Fernandez

Has it really been 10 years since we thought our computers were going to crash? Not only is 2010 a new year, but it is a new decade. Remember the song “Everything Old is New Again?” Let’s try some “New” questions.
1. “New Moon” is the hit movie of this season. What famous singing duo starred in another movie named “New Moon” in the 1930’s?
2. The New York Yankees won the World Series again is 2009. It seems they do it every year, but who was the New York manager from 1949 to 1953 who won the title 5 straight years?
3, The New Christy Minstrels were a popular group of the 60’s and 70’s. Who was their leader?
4. “The New Breed” was a hard hitting TV crime series in the 60’s. The lead actor starred in a movie police series in the 90’s that was a total spoof. Who was that actor?
5. Franklin Roosevelt took the US by storm in the 1930’s with his far reaching program. What did he call it?
6. Eartha Kitt introduced one of her famous songs in the 1953 movie “New Faces?” What was that song?

Win Lunch On Ben!
The first person to email or mail, no calls please, the correct answers to all of the above questions will win a $25 gift certificate at The Uptown Cafe in downtown Danville, compliments of Ben Fernandez! Entries must be received by Jan 15, 2010. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random. Please email your answers to, or mail to ALIVE East Bay, 199 East Linda Mesa Avenue, Suite 10, Danville, CA 94526.

Employees and family members of employees of ALIVE East Bay are not eligible. Restaurant may be changed without notice.

2010 – Welcoming Growth in Our Community

Let us welcome in 2010 by celebrating positive growth and a flourishing future for our community. San Ramon Regional Medical Center recently broke ground for our new $10.7 million emergency department and laboratory expansion project.

San Ramon Regional Medical Center was originally developed in the mid-1980s and built-out over five years. The hospital opened in 1990. The medical center is a full-service acute care hospital. Inpatient services include medical, surgical, obstetrics, intensive care nursery, intensive care and coronary care facilities. In an effort to provide enhanced services and facilities to their patients, the Medical Center will expand the hospital by 6,400 sq. ft.

The new construction project represents the hospital’s commitment to respond to the needs of our growing community. The expansion will include:

  • 8,900 square feet Emergency Department with improved patient flow
  • Expansion from 9 beds to 16 beds
  • Private patient rooms in ED
  • Negative-pressure isolation room
  • Enlarged patient waiting room
  • Dedicated X-ray machine
  • Increased efficiencies in the Clinical Laboratory for chemistry, hematology and the blood bank areas

The expansion project is well-designed and integrated with the existing medical campus. With this expansion San Ramon will be better prepared for community disasters, better equipped to respond to community emergency needs, and more responsive to physician and patients. The project is expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months.

I am proud of San Ramon Regional Medical Center for developing an extraordinary hospital that serves the San Ramon Valley community and our physicians with excellence.

The City staff, Council, and I will continue to support the positive growth of our existing businesses. We will seek to bring new businesses into our City and continue to support San Ramon’s business community. Together we can – Together we will – Make a difference – and make a better community this coming year. You may contact Mayor Wilson by email at:

Business Book Club Meets at 12:30 pm on the first Tuesday of every month. San Ramon Chamber of Commerce 12667 Alcosta Blvd., Ste 160, Bishop Ranch 15. 925-242-0600.

San Ramon Valley Newcomers Club Hiking group meets every Friday at 8:30 am. Hikes are usually 2 hours and within 30 minutes of San Ramon. Info: Sharon, 925-735-8960.

Toastmasters Diablo View Chapter Meets every Tuesday morning at 7:55 am San Ramon Community Center 2501 Alcosta Blvd. Info: Todd Westerlund, 925-242-0600.

Homeowner/Homebuyer Book Club A place to learn, share, and discuss, First Monday of the Month, 6:00 pm , 3223 Crow Canyon Rd. (@ Camino Ramon), Second Floor conference
room, San Ramon. To RSVP: 925-397-2093.

Stay-at-Home MOMS Club – 1st Wednesday of every month. The MOMS Club of San Ramon, Danville, and Dublin are for stay-at-home moms in this area. A number of activity groups are included in the membership. Dues are only $28 a year. Info: Michelle Borrero at 925-639-9556 or

East Bay FIT is part of USA FIT, which prepares people of all fitness levels to RUN or WALK a marathon or half marathon using a proven 6-month training plan. Long group runs are done
together on Saturday mornings, and weekday runs are left to individual members. For more information, please visit or call 1-866-333-9828.

San Ramon Performing Arts:
Info and tickets: 925-973. ARTS
01/15 – 01/16: Wizard of Oz presented by the Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences 01/23, Saturday, 6:30pm: Dangerous Beauty. To benefit the nonprofit education fund of the San Ramon branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
01/23: Cinderella Kids presented by the Active Arts Theatre for Young Audience
02/14: Defending the Caveman
01/30, Saturday, 6 – 9pm: San Ramon Historic Foundation
Crab Feed to raise funds to support the Foundation activities Dinner includes fresh cracked crab, pasta, salad, French bread, coffee and tea…all for a donation of $40 per person. A fun cake
auction will be conducted so that the perfect dessert can be had by your table. Tickets: 925-828-0586.

Out with the Old Year and In with the New Year

Out with the old…
As one of the last events of each year, the Alamo Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Annual Alamo Tree Lighting Festival. Held at Andrew H. Young Park in downtown, the festival is considered the beginning of the Christmas holiday season. Spirits were slightly dampened this year when a light, but cold rain shower started the evening. However, the festival-goers were treated to coffee and hot chocolate, along with various snacks. Carolers and other entertainment soon brought the warmth of the season to everyone.

In with the new…
There are many exciting and entertaining events planned in Alamo for 2010. Beginning with the start of the year, the Alamo Parks and Recreation Advisory duties will be the responsibility of the Alamo Municipal Advisory Council. There are already a number of events planned.

The Alamo Multi-Cultural Festival

The Alamo MAC Recreation program will present the Alamo Multi-Cultural Festival scheduled for Saturday, January 30, 2010 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. The event will take place at Stone Valley Middle School in Alamo. The goal of the event is to bring people together to celebrate the cultural diversity of Alamo and its surrounding Bay Area communities.

The theme of the festival is A Journey Around the World. Our destinations will include Africa, Laos, China, and Mexico with performances from the West African Music and Dance Ensemble with CK and Betty Ladzekpo. Also, performing will be Mien Legends and Son de la Tierra with Artemio Posadas from the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, artists from the Culture to Culture Foundation and guest moderator and storyteller Nana-Dictta Graves.

This event is free to the public. However, space is limited and reservations are highly recommended. To RSVP please call Venus Zayas at (925) 313-2181. Stone Valley Middle School is located at 3001 Miranda Avenue, Alamo, CA.

Movie Night at Alamo School

An open-air movie night at Alamo Elementary School is scheduled for Friday, June 11. We expect this will be very popular. This event is still in the planning stage, so if you have suggestions for a family movie to be shown, please let me know.

Summer Concert Series

Of course, one of the best-attended summer activities is the concert series held in Livorna Park. This year may offer a surprise band, so keep up to date on Alamo events.

Contact Steve Mick at
Comments are the author’s and do not represent the opinion of the Alamo MAC.

Meets at 5:00 p.m. the 2nd Thursday of the month at Hap Magee Ranch Park – Swain House
Alamo-Danville Artists’ Society meets at 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at Danville Congregational’s Social Hall, 989 San Ramon Valley Boulevard, Danville
Alamo Improvement Association Board of Directors Meeting meets at 7:00 p.m. the Thursday after the 2nd Wednesday of the month at Creekside Community Church
Alamo Chamber of Commerce – Monthly Social & Networking Mixers are held the 4th Wednesday of every month, 5:30pm at various members locations. Visit for details!
Alamo Roads Advisory Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. the 2nd Thursday of the month at Hap Magee Ranch Park – Swain House
Alamo Rotary meets Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m., , Round Hill Golf and Country Club; For more information call (925) 820-6847
Alamo Women’s Club meets the 4th Wednesday of the month, 1401 Danville Boulevard, For more information call Nancy P. Combs at (925) 351-6999
Delta Nu Psi Service Sorority sends donated goods to our military people. For more information:
Hap Magee Ranch Park Joint Planning and Operations Committee (JPOC) meets at 5:00 p.m. – Please visit for date, Hap Magee Ranch Park – The Cottage

E-Lockers in Walnut Creek

Just about everyone’s heard of “e-mail” and “e-commerce.” Walnut Creek is abuzz over “e-lockers.” That’s the name for the electronically controlled bicycle lockers recently installed in front of City Hall.

Each locker has an electronic BikeLink card reader; a user swipes the BikeLink card in the reader to open the locker. Once the locker is shut, it will only unlock with the same card used when the bike was parked. The hourly use fee is automatically deducted from the card; in Walnut Creek, the hourly fee is five cents. “Where else can you park for only five cents an hour?” quipped Mayor Gary Skrel at the e-Locker unveiling.

Because eLockers offer secure storage, they have proven popular, according to 511 Contra Costa. As a result, each eLocker serves seven times the users as conventional bike lockers.

While the eLockers at City Hall are the first to be installed by a Central Contra Costa city, they are part of a growing BikeLink system that extends from Seattle to Los Angeles. In Contra Costa, there are eLockers at the AAA building in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill BART, Hercules Park and Ride Lot, Richmond City Hall, Richmond BART, El Cerrito City Hall, El Cerrito Community Center, and El Cerrito BART. For eLocker locations, or to buy a BikeLink card, go to

The eLockers at City Hall are part of Walnut Creek’s effort to support alternative modes of transportation. They are made possible through a partnership with 511 Contra Costa, the local commute alternatives program, and funded by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvement projects and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Performing Arts.
Tickets: 925-943-SHOW (7469)
01/12/10: Bob Schieffer Lesher Speaker Series
01/28 – 02/27: The Syringa Tree Center REPertory Company
01/21 – 02/07: A Number Center REPertory Company
01/22 – 01/23: Winter Program Company C Contemporary Ballet
01/24 – 01/26: Freedom Rings California Symphony
01/16: The 31st Annual Shellie Awards Shellie Committee
01/26: Rethinking Wellness: Emotional Wellness, Letting Go Health Medicine Forum
01/29 – 01/31: Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience Lamplighters Music Theatre
01/29 – 01/30: The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fair(l)y (Stupid) Tales

Arts Education

02/05 – 2/06: Winter Program Smuin Ballet
02/12 – 02/28: Curtains Diablo Theatre Company

Walnut Creek Farmers Market

Every Sunday, 8 AM to 1 PM on Civic Dr. by Civic Park.

Until 01/18, 11 am – 10 pm, Walnut Creek on Ice, Historic Civic Park. Info: (925)935.SNOW (7669),

01/31, Sunday, 3pm: Sierra Chamber Society presents The Afiara String Quartet
Aleksandra Vrebalov: Pannonia Boundless, Mendelssohn: String Quartet Op.44, No.2, Shostakovich: Piano Quintet Op.57.
Grace Presbyterian Church, 2100 Tice Valley Rd. Tickets and info: 925-930-8880

02/06, Saturday, 12pm – 2pm: Go Red, Shop & Stroll.
Grab your walking shoes and get ready to shop and stroll to help fight heart disease!

Solid Waste—Teach Your Children Well

It’s the holidays! They are filled with battery operated remote toys, cameras, dolls and baby walkers. So where do YOU recycle your old batteries? Hopefully, you march behind the Energizer bunny to the town offices, to your local drugstore, or to an e-waste recycling day. P-l-e-a-s-e do not deposit batteries anywhere else!

I grew up in the capital of Illinois, in a small neighborhood that had gravel alleys running between the backs of houses. We took out paper and box waste and burned it in a wire cylinder, and dumped the rest in the traditional metal garbage can—banged up, of course. Now even our kids are learning better practices in preschool.

There are so many new ways to save our environment today that we all wonder about the threats that have not yet been discovered. So when I ask about your new ideas for practices that ensure better solid waste collection, our health may depend on it.

BRAND NEW: Danville has a new box in the police department—to collect those unwanted pills that damage life in our rivers and streams. EBMUD does not draw drinking water that has been through wastewater treatment plans, but other cities do so. And they risk contamination in their drinking water, from these unwanted pills—Mercury? Addictive drugs? Estrogen? The new collection box is much like a postal box. Just remove (or blacken) labels, drop them into a plastic bag, and drop them off in the police office at the back of the Danville offices at 510 LaGonda Way. The council just passed the resolution to collect these drugs, after assuring the Department of Justice that our box is secure from unlawful pilfering. (No needles, aerosol cans, infectious wastes).

As a member of the JPA (Joint Powers Authority), Danville, and the other five cities /county, are governed by laws that supersede those in individual cities to regulate waste collection, disposal, green waste, recycling, composting, disposal, and all of those products that fill our landfills.

As a new commissioner for the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority, I want to share some best practices. So for fun….

POP QUIZ: Which plastics are recyclable? *See end of article.

A. Peanut Butter Jar
B. Plastic Pipes
C. Styrofam
D. Water Bottles
E. Plastic Bags

Landfills are not limitless. We can shrink it dramatically by reducing waste, reusing containers, and recycling usable items. In fact, legislation mandates that landfill diversion be reduced. The first mandate required a 50% reduction by 2000, and our cities are measured. Hazardous materials are implemented separately.

So use the website, or call me if you have questions about broken waste bins (yes, ours broke the day before Thanksgiving!), whom to call for each type of trash cart, needle drop-off locations, composting “how-tos,” or collection schedules.

And I’d like to hear your ideas for some new practices, beyond the authority’s current ordinances. Specifically, what marketing ideas reach you and which ones do you ignore?

*Oh, about the Pop Quiz? I could give you the answers, but then what would you do when you needed to decide if “drinking straws are recyclable?” You can find ALL of the answers with the speed of a mouse at

Stamps In My Passport

Workplace safety has always been very important to us here in the United States. When visiting a production facility invariably one will see a sign stating the number of days since the last accident. On construction sites we expect to see workers’ heads well covered with colorful hard hats. Most everywhere we turn we are bombarded with safety slogans and little reminders to be careful.

A number of years ago the government made safety an overriding goal by establishing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which operates under the acronym of OSHA. Admittedly we joke a bit about this group, but it does serve as a watchdog on safety matters.

So where is all of this going? Well, while browsing through a pile of old trip photos I came across a number of pictures that point out our view of safety regulations is quite different from those practiced in many other countries. Let’s take a look at a few.

Probably the sites that demonstrate the greatest diversity between the United States and some foreign countries are their multi-story construction projects in Southeast Asia. Here in countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and most of Indonesia, bamboo is used to form scaffolding on which hod carriers bring cement to those who are laying the brick. Now I’m sure bamboo is sturdy and stout, but when it is joined to another similar pole with a foot long piece of rope, it certainly can’t be trusted. Two, three, sometimes four stories or higher these flimsy bamboo scaffolds snake up the sides of construction projects. I’m sure you’ve seen a few yourself. Invariably they are irregular and angle out one way or another. I find myself mesmerized watching bare-footed laborers lugging cement in buckets along these swaying paths. I keep waiting for the entire structure to collapse and bring the whole project down with it.

Another site which would drive OSHA into a fit of frustration is the electrical distribution cables which run willy-nilly overhead in many of these nations. I was particularly amazed while staring down some side streets in Old Delhi, India. Here, crisscrossing the streets, are hundreds of cables just sort of hanging there. Apparently if you want electricity you simply grab one of these lines and sort of tap into them with your own wires. I would suspect several hundred electrocutions per year could be considered average in this casual-use pattern. I did notice a few lines which just hung there, and I assumed they represented failed connections.

Again it’s hard to argue against success, but I advise any OSHA reader of mine to avoid these spots as they could certainly cause a psychotic response and might be difficult to forget.

Bamboo scaffolding and uncharted electrical grids may be the most obvious OSHA regulation violations, but there are others.

While visiting the Santiago Volcano site in Nicaragua, I was warned to stay away from the several hundred foot drop into the churning lava flows by a sign which read, “Stay behind the fence.” Now the thought was there, but unfortunately the fence had slowly migrated down the steep precipice until it was on its way into the cauldron itself. A visitor who took the sign seriously would have needed a rope and grappling hook to get to this rickety wood structure. I’m not sure just how old the sign and the fence were, but the location certainly badly needed an update.

One other sign violation occurred in Indonesia. Barb and I took an old, very beat-up ferry between Singapore and Sumatra. Posted in the main cabin was a sign which restricted the ferry’s occupants to one hundred and twenty people. Now I’m sure ninety per cent of the time the owners would love to have had one hundred and twenty paying participants. However, on certain holidays and other particular times of the year they easily make up for their shortfalls by loading these boats down with as many bodies as possible. This was one of those “particular times.” We found ourselves squished into the cabin with absolutely no chance of escape – hoping against hope that “the little engine that could” would make it across the Singapore Strait. Passengers were sitting on the floor, on the laps of other people, and standing on any vacant square of cabin floor. Escape was no option for us in case of any disaster, nor for the over two hundred and fifty crammed aboard.

The last story tickles me to this day. Admittedly we go back to the mid-eighties on a flight between Guilin and Shanghai, China. We stopped to refuel our jet at an ex-military air base somewhere between these two cities. The plane came to a stop at the end of the runway, and they requested that we all deplane. Here, in no-man’s land, stood over one hundred passengers while a truck came zooming out with hoses flying. It pulled up to the plane and a half dozen maintenance workers began pumping gas into the plane’s fuel tanks. I noticed one of the workers had a lit cigarette which was dangling from his lips. I grabbed Barb, and we retreated to a safer spot, about one hundred yards from the refueling site. It took about twenty minutes to fill the tanks of our plane, and then we were all hustled back inside. I’m sure this oversight has since been remedied, but I still chuckle to think of those maintenance guys puffing away around high-octane fuel. We could have been launched into orbit any second – all one hundred of us.

2010 GMC Terrain: A Spirited Small SUV with Luxury Features

The air is getting cold and the holidays are over. Gifts have been unwrapped and placed into two piles – those we want to keep and those we’d like Santa to recall. For those who managed to score big from Santa, but now need to lug items back to be returned or exchanged – GMC can help! For 2010 GMC introduces us to the Terrain – a small SUV with upscale features, best-in-class fuel mileage and a modest price.

The All-New 2010 GMC Terrain offers buyers a new choice in the small SUV market. It shares a platform with the Chevrolet Equinox and provides GMC customers an option smaller than the full-size GMC Acadia. The Terrain offers room for five along with good rear cargo space. I found many of the features and the fit and finish of the Terrain to be upscale. Offered in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive, the Terrain is ready for both on-road and off-road adventures.

The Terrain takes its styling cues from its big brother the GMC Acadia with big bold muscular fender flares that GMC calls “angular yet refined.” Its stance is fearless and confident with a grille that is in-your-face and could be a deal breaker for the more conservative types. As guards protecting an entrance, large stacked headlights stand ready on each side of the grille to light the path a head. An equally sizable fascia sits below the lamps and wraps under the grille completely hiding the front bumper. The front windshield rakes back flowing into a roof line that ends with a rear spoiler. Wrap-around taillights stream from the rear quarter panels into the programmable power tailgate.

The model lineup for the 2010 GMC Terrain consists of two trim levels: SLE and SLT, both available in 2WD and All-wheel drive. All models come standard with the new 2.4-liter direct injected 182 horsepower 4-cylinder gas engine that GMC claims to deliver the best-in-segment EPA estimated highway fuel economy of 32 mpg. If you require more horsepower you can upgrade to a 3.0-liter V6 engine with 264 hp for $1,500. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The interior of the Terrain has a rich premium feel with silver trim throughout the dash and contrasting stitching in the seats. Our test model was equipped with the Audio System w/Navigation package ($2,145) and featured a large 7-inch screen and easy to use navigation system that even provided traffic alerts. I easily connected my cell phone via the Bluetooth connectivity, which provided me a safe way to communicate when calls came in or had to be placed. What really impressed me was when the radio was on and a phone call came in the system faded out the music instead of simply cutting it off. It may not sound like much, but it is a feature not normally found in an SUV and contributes to the luxury essence of the Terrain.

Interior packaging was well thought through with plenty of storage compartments including an oversized glove box and a center armrest large enough to store a laptop computer. The rear seat adjusts forward and back by nearly eight inches to deliver either more rear legroom or rear cargo storage. The 60/40-split rear seatback offers additional flexibility.

Room for improvement:

  • Objects viewed by the backup camera are much closer than they appear

Cool Features:

  • Standard rear-vision camera
  • MultiFlex adjustable rear seat
  • Standard OnStar and XM Satellite Radio
  • Programmable power rear liftgate
  • Remote vehicle start
  • Touch screen navigation system with a 40-gigabyte hard drive

The 2010 GMC Terrain includes six airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with StabiliTrak electronic stability control, and traction control. OnStar with one-year Safe and Sound service is standard.

In Summary: The All-New 2010 GMC Terrain delivers a smooth and comfortable ride with many upscale features and plenty of horsepower. Its bold styling has an athletic stance that makes it stand out from the crowd. The Terrain is quiet thanks to GM’s Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology that uses microphones to detect booming sounds inside the vehicle and sends counteracting sound waves through the audio system’s speakers. Could you imagine a portable ANC system? That would have been a popular gift under the old Christmas tree. It could be called the Active Nagging Cancellation system. Pretty cool!

2010 GMC Terrain

Base price:
Turning circle:
Cargo space:
Curb weight:
Fuel capacity:
EPA mileage:
Wheel Base:
Also consider:
Future changes:
$25,850 as driven: $32,620 (with destination and V6 engine)
2.4-Liter Ecotec direct injected 4-cylinder
182 @ 6700
172 pound-feet @ 4900 rpm
6-speed Automatic
40 feet
63.9 cubic feet
3798 pounds
18.8 gallons
32 highway, 22 city
112.5 inches
5 years/100,000 miles bumper to bumper
Ford Edge, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano, Hyundai Santa Fe
New for 2010


Village Theatre Peanuts Exhibit Showed Baseball for the Fun of It

There is perhaps no better embodiment of the old saying that “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game,” than Charley Brown’s baseball team from the old Peanuts comic strip. Several dozen of those strips, dating as far back as 1952, were on display from Nov. 14 to Dec. 20 at the Village Theatre in Danville in an exhibit entitled Peanuts at Bat.

It was the first of a series of visiting exhibits to be displayed at the newly renovated historic theatre. The building, opened in 1913, was almost turned into a parking lot in 1987, and was re-opened in its current form as part of the Peanuts at Bat Grand Opening on Nov. 14.

According to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, the owners and organizers of Peanuts at Bat, the Peanuts team won six games over the years and suffered innumerable losses. The fact that they kept on playing season after season captures the spirit of participation that the Town of Danville aspires to in its own sports program through its slogan, “Everybody Can Play,” said Assistant Town Manager Marcia Somers.

Everybody can play is a hallmark of the Peanuts team. Its regular lineup, according to the Village Theatre’s docent notes, included a dog at shortstop and an all-girl outfield. Charley Brown pitched almost every game, which led to his developing Little League elbow. Linus replaced him on the mound and the team went on a rare, but brief, winning streak.

A small part of the Peanuts exhibit pays homage to Schulz’s love of the San Francisco Giants. In one strip, Charley Brown lost a spelling bee when he was asked to spell maze, but instead spelled the last name of Giants centerfielder Willie Mays. In a December 1962 strip, Linus and Charley Brown sit morosely on a curb for three panels before Charley Brown blurts, “Why couldn’t McCovey have hit it three feet higher?” This is in reference to a line drive McCovey hit that was caught by the Yankees’ Bobby Richardson at second base to end Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. Had the ball landed safely two runs would have scored and the Giants would have been World Champions.

Schulz also took note of baseball trends. In one strip the Peanuts gang is at an autograph show discussing how much each had paid to get an autograph of their favorite real-life player. Charley Brown’s favorite player was the fictional Joe Schlabotnik. He was so bad that he paid Charley Brown a dollar to take his autograph.

The Peanuts at Bat exhibit is the first of a series of art exhibits that will grace the Village Theatre lobby on an ongoing basis. “We chose the Peanuts exhibit first because we wanted to draw families,” said Somers. The exhibit’s contents earned overwhelming approval from the Town’s Art Commission, and according to Somers, children as young as 3 and up through the teen years have visited.

Somers says that the 1,100 square foot space in the Village Theatre lobby will regularly host traveling exhibits available for public viewings. On Jan. 30 an exhibit of contemporary Irish stained glass will begin a two month stay, and a collection of art work celebrating Mt. Diablo will be featured from April 10 to June 6. Gallery hours are 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. from Wednesdays to Saturdays and from 11 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. There is no charge for admission, and a docent is always available during regular gallery hours. Those attending theatrical productions at the Village Theatre can enjoy the lobby art series at no additional charge.

Further information is available by calling 925-314-3400 or by visiting

Tea with Mussolini

Tea with Mussolini

A decade ago, Roberto Benigni was the talk of Hollywood and the world with his award winning Italian film Life is Beautiful. Tea with Mussolini (1999) is also a quasi-autobiography written and directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Both films set in the same time and place, about the same subject: the growing Fascist movement in Italy in the 1930’s, which eventually led to that nation’s alliance with Hitler’s Germany. Tea with Mussolini is a beautiful film with an incredible cast that gives sublime performances. It is tinged with humor even though it covers a dark and tragic subject. This film follows several plot lines all woven together.

The first story is about a boy named Luca (played first by Charlie Lucas), who is orphaned after the death of his mother and the abandonment and marriage of his social climbing father. Luca is taken in by his father’s secretary, a British woman named Mary (Joan Plowright). As the tension grows between Italy and the Allies, Luca’s father decides the English way is not for him. He sends Luca off to Austria to be introduced to the Fascist ideology. However, when Luca returns, he has not lost his love for Mary, and he shows this despite the fact that she has become his country’s enemy.

The second story is about the ladies of the British consulate, who are respected members of the community until Italy declares war on England. Suddenly these proper ladies (of which Mary is one) are considered enemy aliens and imprisoned by the government. A dowdy member of the group is Hester (Maggie Smith), the widow of Mussolini’s former ambassador to England. She is Il Duce’s biggest fan, and even meets with him where they have tea and he assures her that no harm will come to her or her friends. Though Hester’s faith in the dictator survives far beyond everyone else’s, she eventually comes to realize her tea with him was nothing but a placation.

Then there is the story of a wealthy American woman named Elsa (Cher), a perfect example of “nouveau riche,” who is despised by Hester and many of the other proper British ladies. Elsa is flamboyant, loud, and garish, all of which spells vulgarity to Hester. But she is also good-natured and full of spirit, and she dearly loves Luca, since his deceased mother was her best friend. Like Hester, she soon finds herself the enemy, and is undone by an Italian man in whom she placed her trust. Also present is Lily Tomlin as Elsa’s sister Georgie, a brash lesbian grudgingly tolerated among the stuffy British women, and Judi Dench as Hester’s eccentric friend Arabella.

But the real star, art, is the never far below the visual bounty or plot’s direction. The architecture of Florence and San Gimignano are the story’s stunning backdrops. The real story here is how easily our world can change if we don’t stay informed about what is happening! This is a luscious story set in an amazingly beautiful country. I look forward to your comments.