Retirement Risks – Beware of Them All

What is risk? If you ask most investors, they would tell you that risk is the chance that an investment will go down in value. But this is only one type of risk – market risk. Investors face several other additional types of risk in retirement. These risks, if not addressed, can chip away at your retirement savings. Unfortunately, most retirement savers are far too fixated on market risk and do not pay close enough attention to the other types of risk.

Market risk is the chance that an investment’s actual returns will be different than expected due to overall price fluctuations in the market. Under this definition of risk, equities have the most risk and cash has the least. Market risk, however, is not the only risk out there for retirement savers.

What about the chance that you might not have enough set aside to meet your retirement spending needs, a savings shortfall risk? This can be compounded by retiring too early and/or spending too much in retirement. Longevity risk is the chance you will live much longer than expected and outlive your savings. Inflation risk is the chance that inflation will erode the purchasing power of your savings. In all of these cases, the “riskier” asset is cash and the “safer” asset is equities. Other risks to watch out for include legislative risk, the risk of law changes to taxes, pensions, Social Security and Medicare. What if someone dies early or becomes disabled? Fire consumes your home? What if you get sued? Catastrophic events risk is often overlooked and can be hedged with insurance and proper estate planning.

Investors need to rethink the concept of risk and how it can change over different life stages. As a young saver you have time on your side and many years of future income to put toward retirement savings. Market risk should not be a big concern. The bigger risk at this stage is the savings shortfall risk. You should invest for high returns and make sure you are getting a savings program going.

Savers in midlife can also accept high levels of market risk. They still have very long time horizons and many future years of income and contributions. They should still seek higher returns and watch that they are saving enough to avoid a shortfall. They should reduce their market risk as they near retirement.

Once retired you have no more future income to fund contributions and must now shift your focus to balancing market risk with longevity and inflation risk. This still requires seeking attractive returns and maintaining a healthy equity exposure. Longevity is the greatest risk for new retirees.

A senior retiree has likely spent down some of their retirement savings and needs to focus more on minimizing losses while at the same time generating returns that keep pace with inflation. Now is the time to pay attention to market risk yet balance it against the risk of losing purchasing power.

Damien helps individuals invest and manage risk. He is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and a principal of Walnut Creek Wealth Management. These are the views of Damien Couture, CFP® and should not be construed as investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Not all recommendations are suitable for all investors. Each investor must consider their own goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. Your comments are welcome. Damien can be reached at 925-280-1800 x101 or

Love Gone Wrong

By now Valentine’s Day has come and gone and you likely heard stories on “private investigators’ busiest time of the year for infidelity cases.” Hogwash and bunkum. The P.I.s getting busy with cheating cases on Valentine’s Day is in the same league with the falsehood of Super Bowl Sunday having the most cases of domestic violence.

Eighty percent of the work load at our firm involves sleuthing for lawyers and for businesses–straight-forward meat-and-potatoes stuff. Perhaps my least favorite question at cocktail parties when I let down my guard and tell people what I do is: “So, you do cheating spouse stuff. Like ‘Cheaters’?”

I don’t much care for boyfriend-girlfriend surveillance-type cases. We screen our clients pretty carefully to weed out stalkers and freaks. But we do handle family law and domestic surveillance assignments. If it’s boyfriend-girlfriend situation and not much is at stake I would advise the potential client to just have some trust, or if it’s going badly just break it off and onto the next fish in the sea.

However, I do sympathize for what is a common scenario for our domestic clients. The most common customer is a professional woman about 40 to 55 years old looking at a divorce or involved in a child custody case. Some want ammo for court in child custody matters but others just want to see who has replaced them. If the husband had some honor and told the truth sooner we would not have these clients. What thanks is this for a woman who has raised the kids, likely held a job too and kept the household together?

This is not to say that it’s only men who cheat. Three out of five of our last cheating cases involved married women. The husbands had suspicions and acted on them after intercepting e-mails. (We never engage in touching another person’s email, phones, etc., all illegal acts.)

We catch the cheats with patience and stealth. Clients ask “how long does it take?” and we honestly cannot tell them as to do so would imply us having a crystal ball or other magical powers. The best analogy I have is that doing surveillance is like hunting or fishing: you might have to cast your line over and over, day after day to land one. I have gone out on someone six or seven times before they bolted for the cheating side of town.

And I have seen it all: There was the Australian businessman who we caught in San Francisco with a hooker after his wife became suspicious when she saw some of his Viagra pills were missing.  There was the “case of the jealous blind man” who thought his wife was in porn 40 years ago and who thought he was not the biological father of his daughter. (“No” to the porn rumor and “yes” to him being the father.) I have had several cases where men fell for women and gave them cars, hiring us to find and repo the cars but then relenting and giving the cars back. My first domestic was in 1994, capturing images of an illicit kiss on this stuff called “film.”

And for the record, December and May or June tend to be busiest for domestic investigations.




Spencer Elrod Services

Spencer Elrod Services

The Skinny: New Technologies on Fat Reduction.

Coolsculpting May Be The Magic Wand For Contouring The Stubborn Fat You Want To Lose.

If I had a dollar for every time someone wished they could trim the pooch of the belly, the bulge of the hips, or even the little flesh that spills over the top of a strapless gown without any effort, then I’d be as rich as the people behind Coolsculpting Technologies are about to be.

The Coolsculpting device, which is now at residence at Dr. Michelle Place Plastic Surgery Center in Danville, is a non-invasive treatment that eliminates fat cells in specific areas of your body. A cooling applicator is attached to the targeted area to extract energy from the underlying fat tissue, while protecting the skin, nerves, muscles and other tissue. The cooled fat cells undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death) and are gradually eliminated, reducing the thickness of the fat layer. Aside from some coldness to the area being treated and some electric tingle that lets you know something admittedly weird and extraordinary is happening, it’s trauma-free, safe, and requires no surgery or downtime.

Since the equipment was FDA approved and delivered to Dr. Place’s headquarters last December its switch has been in the “on” position more than it has been off and it’s no wonder it is the only office in the Bay Area that provides this service. The Plastic Surgery Center has done over 500 treatments for patients to help sculpt and melt their stubborn unwanted pooches: which is the hardest to rid with even extreme exercise.

On January 17th I attended a Coolsculpting seminar at the beautiful “The Studio” in Danville to see first hand what all this melting fat was all about. The Coolsculpting people were there and were very knowledgeable and confident in their equipment. Dr. Place spoke about the device as a lunchtime treatment that could be done in one hour and that will offer results from only one session! She also said, “It will give you lasting results, killing the fat cells for life.” The Plastic Surgery Center did a demonstration treatment on one of the 40 girls that were attending. I spoke with the patient in treatment and she told me that there was no pain; it was cooling yet comfortable. We all loved the results and, with zero downtime and no surgery, we were excited to line up and schedule our own procedure. Julie Fontaine, the office manager, scheduled a one-hour appointment for me to melt away my not-so-loving pooch.

I went in the next Monday without hesitation and was greeted by a wonderful and professional staff. Dr. Place and the Nurse practitioner prepped my tummy and marked the areas to be sculpted. They placed the Coolsculpt device gently on the area of the skin that would be suctioned and pulled into the machine. Aside from some cooling sensation, it was comfortable and virtually painless. Throughout the procedure Dr. Place and the nurse practitioner checked in to see how I was doing. I am now onto smooth and flat abs, while it takes up to three months to see the final results Dr. Place said you can see a reduction in two weeks. So, ladies, now is the time for slimming and melting that fat away for summer and the outcome is permanent, so start today. Once the word gets out, that machine will be going into overdrive.

Trivial Matters

I was in New York City when I received our editor’s request for material. So, with a New York state of mind, I submit the following:

  1. Who was the male lead of the movie “New York, New York?”
  2. Who managed the New York Yankees following Casey Stengel in 1960?
  3. Who was the coach of the New York Giants when they lost the Super Bowl to Baltimore in 2001?
  4.  Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra were sailors on leave in “On the Town.” Who wrote the music for that show?
  5. Who was the pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson River?
  6. A famous old radio show took its title from a famous NY destination. What was it?

February Answers

  1. “House of Blue Lights”
  2. “The Light that Failed”
  3.  “Blue Moon”
  4. “Blue velvet”
  5. Blue Laws


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 March 20, 2012. In the event of a tie, the winner will be drawn at random. Please email your answers to, or mail to ALIVE East Bay, 3200 A Danville Blvd., Ste. 204, Alamo, CA 94507. Employees and family members of employees of ALIVE East Bay are not eligible.
Restaurant may be changed without notice.

Making the Grade – What You Need to Know About Bullying

There has been heartbreaking media coverage over the last few years of the growing bullying epidemic. The ramifications of these terrible acts for children and teens range from emotional and developmental issues to physical harm and even suicide in extreme cases. Government studies indicate that one out of five school age students are either the recipient or predator in a bullying incident. Bullying can happen at any age and to someone of any race, gender or socio-economic background. It occurred in my classroom despite the school’s education on the subject and my regular discussions and check-ins with students. Ultimately, I found that parents’ efforts and communication with their children and with me helped solve the problem. Here is what you should know and how you can help your child.

Types of Bullying
There are more types of bullying than you may think. Here is a breakdown:

  •   Cyber bullying: via internet, phone, text or other forms of technology, a modern-day culprit that particularly affects teens
  • Physical: Pushing, hitting, punching, or taking a child’s belonging
  • Verbal: Any kind of teasing, threats or name-calling
  • Social: Gossiping to cause harm, damaging friendships, spreading rumors, forming clicks, not playing or hanging out with someone on purpose

Potential Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied
To recognize if your child is being bullied look for these signs: moodiness, anxious or hopeless behavior, lack of appetite, damaged clothing, “lost” items, bruises or injuries, inability to sleep, bad dreams, sudden unwillingness to go to school or extra curricular activities, unexplained drop in grades, complaints of physical issues such as stomach pains. Of course, many stresses can lead to these symptoms, but regardless, these behaviors are red flags that something is not right and you need to have a talk with your child and be vigilant.

What to Do If Your Child Is A Victim
If you suspect your child is being bullied don’t wait to take action. You want to let your child know you are there to help and give her time and space to share her thoughts. Try role-playing a similar scene as the one your child is struggling with and come up with a few different ways to handle it. If the bullying is happening at school or an after school program, it is always wise to contact the teacher and whomever else you feel will be the strongest advocate for vigilance and authority in the situation. If you have to talk to a parent, do so in person and with someone who can act as a mediator, such as a school counselor. Also, be sure to document cases as they occur. Being a proactive parent can completely change your child’s school and social experiences for the better and even save her life.

Stop Bullying is a user-friendly website that gives excellent information on how to take action as a parent, teacher, child or teen. Share this link with everyone you know!

Wine-ing About Cooking

It started out fun, but then things got fuzzy. I wanted to make a dish that I often order at one of my favorite restaurants (yes Mexican) called tortilla soup. Well, to cut right to the cheese, I mean chase—you know it’s been a long time since you’ve cooked when you can’t even find the cheese grater. Worse yet, when you can’t remember what the cheese grater looks like.This has nothing to do with memory loss and everything to do with cooking blues, because I know what a grater looks like, I just couldn’t remember what mine looked like.

In my case it takes up way too much of my time, cooking that is. For me it’s off to work by 8:30 a.m., whistle blows at 5 p.m. (sometimes midnight), then home to feed the horse (an overgrown dog really, with a huge appetite who honestly only loves me for my amazing ability to feed him), then phone interviews, edit my students articles, and more writing until 10 p.m.—well let’s just say, “hello fast food ala ATM card.” Sleep fits in there somewhere between today and tomorrow, I’m just not sure where, exactly. Now who hid the ladle?

I always tell everyone that when I do cook, my stove thinks a new tenant moved in. And since my 17-year-old son Andrew is not too keen on casseroles or anything with green in it, I keep it simple for him (mac and cheese from a box tops the charts). At this point, I can’t make out if it’s the onions that are making me cry or just the cooking?

I pour myself a glass of Cabernet – this always helps. See, I cook just fine, and I receive my fair share of compliments when I host a dinner (key word: when). I love to watch the Food Network cooking shows on Saturdays (how does Giada stay so thin anyway?), and Andrew has to pull me away, literally from the Tupperware stand in the middle of the malls. The wine is taking effect and I begin to search high and low (mostly low) for that new mini white Tupperware strainer with a practically noir look on my face.

The tortilla soup is almost done. So is the bottle of wine. But how could soup possibly take five hours to make? With no time left to read Bill Clinton’s new book “Giving,” I plop on the couch and contemplate how it feels to be “receiving” no soup (because I’m full of wine now) and wonder if I fed the horse yet.

Kitchen is a mess and take-out would’ve only cost me no more than two or three Abe Lincolns (love Taco Bell), so why all the fuss and muss? I’m thinking cooking is just not my thing. I’m much better at putting words together than food, where the only things left on the floor and counters to clean-up are trite clichés and passive sentences my editor didn’t need.

By the way, I finally found the cheese grater. It was tucked neatly away in my sock drawer.

Charleen Earley is a freelance writer, humor columnist, high school journalism teacher and stand-up comedienne. Contact her at

Stamps in My Passport – Ecuador

Flag of Ecuador
Well, I just got back from the center of the world, and I found it a very interesting and entertaining place. In fact, it makes me wonder why more travelers don’t go there. After all, there can be only one center of the world. I admit it took me over one hundred and twenty countries until I got around to going there; but believe me, it is now high on my return list.

Where is the center of the world? Well, the center of a math problem is represented by the equal sign. The center of the year is the equinox. And, of course, the center of the world is the equator. And there, right on that “line,” spreading to both sides, is the wonderful little country named after it – Ecuador.

Let me tell you what you’ve missed if you’ve ignored it thus far in your travels.

The locals talk about the four divisions of the land – each division populated by its own group of individual people. There is the coastal area bordering the Pacific Ocean, the mid-area of subtropics, the higher elevation of the plains, and of course the Galapagos Islands. The focus for me in this story will be the high plains. I’m going to save the rest, especially the Galapagos Islands for later.

Sitting in a long thin valley at over nine thousand feet is the city of Quito. The location of this valley frustrates map makers because it runs north and south, making them put the standard arrow which points north on most maps in a very awkward position.

Quito is surrounded by high saw-toothed mountains, most of them composed of extinct volcanoes. There is a great legend which has the two masculine volcanoes, Imbabura, and Mojanda, fighting to win the love of Cotacachi, the good-looking female volcano. The battle between the two muscle men had them throwing huge rocks and boulders all over the place. Imbabura won this mythical conflict to claim the love of Cotacachi, who became his wife.

A geologist would feel that it’s like a bit of heaven with every form of geological formation imaginable – spread all over the place. By the way, none of my guides could tell me what makes a volcano male or female. So I’ll have to leave that to your imagination.

It is apparent while visiting here that the people are a fun-loving bunch. We spent ten days in Quito and found each day was a cause for some sort of celebration. For example, we were wandering around the central area of Old Town on a Monday morning when we heard bands playing and saw guards marching in ceremonial dress. Stopping to investigate we were delighted to see the President of Ecuador, with the US Ambassador to his right step out on the veranda of the government house and say “hi” to all of the people. Actually I believe it was “hola,” a common greeting here.

On Sundays they close many of the main streets and people cycle or jog on what normally is a boulevard jam-packed with cars, taxis, and buses. But during this festive day, bands, mimes, and street vendors were packed down at one end of the wide avenue, and a good time was had by all.

Now back to why these folks call this place “the center of the earth.”

It seems that centuries ago the Mayans, and even before them, the locals looked up at the sky and discovered an interesting phenomenon. If they poked a stick in the ground, one half of the year the shadow fell on one side, while the other half of the year the shadow was on the other. Their impeccable logic told them they were smack dab in the center of the universe.

They tried another experiment with this stick in the ground. Each morning when the sun rose and each evening when it set, they placed a neat little stone at the end of the stick’s shadow. Lo and behold when a year was up and the shadow started all over, they had a perfect circle of marked stones. Once again, their faultless reasoning placed them at this very spot – in the center of the universe.

Apparently they had an earlier version of Stephen Hawking who explained this magic to them, and they prided themselves on being at the very middle of the world.

Although the ego of the people of Ecuador at being in the center of the universe has faded some over the past centuries, these guys are still proud to do their own thing. High in the Andes, where the weather remains unchanged during the year, where the sun proceeds equally to the north and south, where the length of a day of light vs. dark changes hardly at all, these people are a happy lot and a joy to visit and spend time with.

2012 Mazda 2 – Zoom-Zoom & Smiling!

It seems wherever we look there are a greater number of small cars on the road. The subcompact segment is growing in popularity partially due to their lower price point and better economical fuel ratings. One of the main differences between the small cars of yester year and the products of today, is that small no longer means cheap, slow vehicles with limited features.

We may be willing to trade space for fuel efficiency; however, that does not mean we want less style and fewer features. While Mazda has developed a reputation for building fun-to-drive cars, this subcompact Mazda2, at 155.5 inches in length, is packed with Zoom-Zoom fun!

The Mazda Mazda2 (no, I didn’t stutter, that’s just Mazda’s naming platform) was introduced here in 2011. It fills the subcompact gap that they had in their lineup allowing them to compete with the likes of the Honda Fit and Kia Rio.

History lesson – Ford, for many years, owned controlling interest in Mazda and in turn worked quite closely with Mazda and relied on their expertise in developing small cars. Even though the “ownership” relationship has ended, Ford and Mazda continue to work together on certain projects. The Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta are examples of their current collaboration; however, the Mazda2 has a completely different powertrain, interior and styling.

The 2012 Mazda2 is available in two trim levels: Sport ($14,370) and Touring ($15,855). Both models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. Add $840 for a four-speed automatic transmission.

The exterior styling is sleek and surprising. I had to look twice to confirm something so small actually had four doors! The Mazda2 has a soft shoulder line that emerges from the top of the front wheel well and rises to the taillights. A lower and stronger crease at the bottom begins at the front wheel and raises up to the middle of the rear tire creating an in-motion stance.

The 15-inch alloy wheels with all-season Yokohama 185/55 R15 tires fit perfectly in the small wheel wells and are pushed out leaving short overhangs, providing the maximum wheelbase. The fun part is in the happy-smiling grille. It is as if the big grin is saying, “Small can be cute, too!”

Where the front is smiling, the rear is frowning. The rear hatch has a sporty spoiler and opens to a small cargo area (13.3 cubic feet) only adequate for groceries, backpacks or other mini items. With the 60/40 split, fold-down rear seats, folded flat-the cargo capacity grows to 27.8 cubic feet.

The interior is clean and comfortable. Mazda was quite generous with the use of black and gray, perhaps to a fault. The only source of color was a small, red piping in the front and rear seats (Touring model only). The surfaces were nice to look at; however, constructed of hard plastics. My test vehicle was equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission. The shifter is located high just below the center cluster, verses directly on the floor. The Touring model receives an upgraded leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control command buttons.
The driving experience is what you would expect from Mazda – total Zoom-Zoom. Power comes from a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 100 horsepower and 98 pounds of torque. That may not seem like a lot of horses under the hood, but mated to the manual transmission it has good pick up and go. Don’t forget, the Mazda2 only weighs 2,306 pounds. The automatic gets only a one-Zoom rating. The EPA rated the fuel economy at 29 city and 35 highway (manual) and at 28 city and 34 highway (auto).

The steering was tight and corners well thanks to its Yokohama tires, independent front suspension and anti-roll bar. The braking was improved on for 2012 and consists of disc brakes up front and rear drums in the back. If the car generated more horsepower I might be calling foul with drum brakes, but 4-wheel disc would probably be overkill on the Mazda2.

Room for improvement:

  • Plenty of wind noise in the cabin

Cool Features:

  • Smiling front end
  • Optional Bluetooth(r)-enabled phone connectivity

The standard safety equipment for all the 2012 Mazda Mazda2 models includes six airbags (advanced dual front, front-seat mounted and full-length side curtain, and crushable brake-pedal assembly, LATCH seating system, front seatbelt pretensioners, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

In Summary – Mazda keeps the Zoom-Zoom spirit alive even in its smallest vehicle. The 2012 Mazda Mazda2 turns small into a fun driving experience. My car was colored in Mazda’s Spirited Metallic Green, which in itself had people checking out the little green machine. If you are looking for small and spunky, then check out the 2012 Mazda Mazda2.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 Touring

Base price: $15,855 as driven: $16,920 (including destination)
Engine: 1.5 Liter 4 cylinder
Horsepower: 100 @ 6000
Torque: 98 foot pounds @ 4000
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual
Drive: Front Wheel-Drive
Seating: 5-passenger
Turning circle: 32.1feet
Cargo space: 13.3 cubic feet
Curb weight: 2,306 pounds
Fuel capacity: 11.3 gallons
EPA mileage: City 29 / Highway 35
Wheel Base: 98 inches
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper
Also consider: Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris

Getting Rid of Liquidamber

ALIVE East Bay | March 2012 | The Dirt Gardener

Q. What is the name of the tree that drops thousands of pokey seed balls all over the sidewalk every winter? I’ve almost broken my ankle on them! How can I get rid of the balls without getting rid of the tree?

A. The Liquidambar, the American Sweet Gum, is the name of the tree that produces the annoying seedpods that are spiny and brown in color. It’s an elegant, columnar tree with large maple shaped leaves that provides beautiful fall color. Unfortunately, their popularity is declining because of the nuisance they create and the problematical surface roots. The seedpods of the Liquidambars start to drop as the fall color fades and the leaves fall. This shedding continues until the new foliage emerges in the spring. You avoid this problem by spraying the tree with Florel Fruit Eliminator by Monterey Lawn and Garden when it is in bloom. Yes, Liquidambar trees do flower. The flowers aren’t particularly attractive and the seedpods develop as a result of pollination. Fortunately, the seedpods are sterile; otherwise, you’d have hundreds of new seedling trees each year. Liquidambars produce individual male and female flowers just as the new leaves are emerging. The flowering cycle should begin around the first week in March, so be on the look out for it. The female flower is a greenish color and circular in shape, while the male flower is shaped more like a tassel. They eventually fall off creating a short-term mess within a couple of weeks of opening. The female flower is an incomplete flower, as it has no sepal or petals. After fertilization, the light green seedpods develop in clusters. They usually quite heavy that cause some of the immature branches to be permanently bend. As they mature they become very light and airy. Once formed, you can manually remove the seedpod clusters but this is a tedious task. Hence, aborting the formation by spraying the flowers with Florel is advantageous. Florel is not an insecticide, fungicide or miticide. It’s a plant growth regulator that prevents the formation of the seedpods. It is also applied to Olive, Flowering Plum, Crabapple trees and others that produce a messy fruit. Florel is widely available at independent garden centers and other lawn and garden retailers. Again it’s critical that Florel is applied when the tree is in bloom. Several applications are necessary as the flowers open progressively over several weeks. Mother Nature can help by rainy during the flowering cycle. I’ve been successful controlling about eighty percent of the problem by applying Florel with a hose end-sprayer. Today, reaching the top of a mature tree is a problem even with a ladder.

Note: You’ll find images of the flowers on my web site The link is at the bottom of the home page is the right hand corner.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523.

Turning the Camera on Music at March 10-18 Film Festival in the East Bay

The 17th Annual East Bay International Jewish Film Festival begins its nine-day run beginning Saturday, March 10 and concluding on Sunday, March 18. The Festival will screen 44 films in total, with many of them focusing on famous composers, musicians, conductors, and an American record company, Castle Records, which showcased the talents of legendary R&B singers Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters.

Opening the Festival on March 10 at the CineArts in Pleasant Hill is the moving French-Russian drama and Golden Globe nominee Le Concert about an ousted Bolshoi Orchestra conductor who dreams of performing one last concert in Paris. “If you like Tchaikovsky and want a film that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit, then this is a film for you,” says Ilana Revelli, co-chair of the Festival.

Sunday, March 11’s line-up includes a film that not only celebrates a particular music genre, 70’s pop rock, but is also a musical itself. In Mary Lou, award-winning Israeli director Eytan Fox has created a feature film that showcases the songs of singer and composer Svika Pick. “This wonderful film takes you on a journey with its protagonist, a young man who searches for the mother who abandoned him as a child,” Festival co-chair Kim Weinstein notes. “To familiarize our audience with Pick’s music, we’re preceding the screening with a mini-concert by The Vibers, a local band.”

The Wednesday, March 14th film Mahler on the Couch is an edgy drama about the famous conductor and composer Gustav Mahler, who turns to Sigmund Freud after the former’s wife has an affair with another artist. The film examines the cultural life of Austria in the late 19th century and the bonds that develop between a patient and his psychoanalyst.

Showing on March 17th at the Orinda Theatre with Restoration, an award-winning film about a restorer of antiques who himself is restored by a stranger, is the Bay Area premiere of the German drama Wunderkinde. It follows the lives of three teen musicians during World War II. “Although we did not purposefully seek out films with a musical bent,” says Revelli, “we were immediately moved by their ability to illustrate how music can bring people together as well as inspire them.”

In contrast, Wagner and Me reveals a different side of the power of music. This British documentary by actor Stephen Fry explores how he, as a Jew and grandchild of Holocaust survivors, struggles with his love of Wagner’s music even though the composer was an infamous anti-Semite. The documentary asks the question: Can you separate the artist from his art?

In addition to music-focused films, the Festival features non-music driven films, including many East Bay premieres and award-winning films. At the March 11 screening of Gei Oni, veteran Israeli director Daniel Wolman will be in attendance to discuss his film’s recent winning the Best Film prize in China’s this past October. A last minute addition to the Festival is Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat), an animated film for adults and older teens that is set in Algeria in the 1920s. Based on a French new wave comic strip, this witty and highly original movie features a talking cat who wants a Bar Mitzvah, his rabbi, a wise Arab sheik and an eccentric Russian millionaire — all of whom journey to the heart of Africa.

The East Bay International Jewish Film Festival is presented by the Jewish Federation of the East Bay and is co-sponsored by Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Diablo Magazine, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and City National Bank. Films will be screened at the CineArts in Pleasant Hill, the Orinda Theatre and the Vine Cinema in Livermore. For tickets and a brochure, call the box office at 510.318.6456 or visit the website at