East Bay Express

Underage Sex Scandal Explodes at Oakland Police Department and Mayor Fires Succession of Interim Chiefs

(Editor's note: Since the East Bay Express broke this story, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has appointed and removed three police chiefs as more details have surfaced, including racist texting. On Friday, she said, "We are hell bent on rooting out this disgusting culture" and "I'm running a police department, not a frat house.")

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Industrial Hemp Is Coming to California -- Even if It's Not Exactly Legal Yet

The following article first appeared in the East Bay Express

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Medical Marijuana Patients Are Forced Back into Hiding in California

The following article first appeared in the East Bay Express

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California's Lt. Gov. Says It's Time to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana [Watch]

The relatively powerless Lieutenant Governor of California and former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is increasingly using his bully pulpit to endorse taxing and regulating pot like alcohol.

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Cali Cops Take Home $181 Million Worth of Loot in Their War against Medical Marijuana

Anger with police chiefs over their continued obstruction of reasonable medical marijuana regulations is boiling over in California this year.

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Does Marijuana Legalization Spell the Death of the Underground Weed Dealer?

On January 1, at 8 a.m., the State ofColorado began allowing licensed businesses to sell marijuana to any adult 21 years of age or older. No medical card is needed — just show your ID, and choose your weed from a broad selection of strains. Much like alcohol.

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The Bay Area Has A Values Problem: "Non-Techies Are Dismissed as 'Unimportant to the Nation's Future'"

This piece originally appeared in the East Bay Express, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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The Future of Feces: Dispatches from the World of Fecal Transplants

This feature article originally appeared in the East Bay Express, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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"Our Very Existence Makes People Uncomfortable": Transphobic Violence Persists Across the Globe and at Home

This feature article originally appeared in the East Bay Express, and is reprinted here with their permission.

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The New Reefer Madness: Drug War Crusaders Blame Pot Growers for Dead Animals -- But the Drug War's to Blame

The photo looks like something out of a horror film. A long, thin animal lays dissected on a white table. Metal tools pull the animal's skin back to reveal its jellied, maroon-colored insides — all soupy, slick, and lumpy. It's the remains of a Pacific Fisher, an eight-pound member of the weasel family that's now hovering near extinction, thanks in part to illegal pot farming in the vast forests of California.

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Will Non-Profits Try To Stop Their Workers From Unionizing?

When employees of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco began talking about unionizing earlier this spring, their concerns centered on issues familiar to workers of all stripes: understaffed departments, increased workloads, benefit cuts, high turnover. Although an attempt to unionize in October 2010 was unsuccessful, most employees at the homeless services nonprofit believed that the effort would end differently this time around.

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Universities Selling Out Important Research to Corporate Overseers

This story was originally published here in the East Bay Express. 

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Billions of Corporate Dollars Are Hijacking University Research to Help Make Profits

The following piece was originally published in the East Bay Express. Reprinted with permission.

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Former Cop: How To Talk To Police About Pot

Former prosecutors and cops led the effort to legalize marijuana in Washington last fall. And some current law enforcement officials are now openly endorsing pot legalization in the Midwest. In fact, no matter where you look, it's fair to say that cops across the country are talking a lot about pot these days and questioning whether it should remain illegal, said retired California police officer and marijuana activist Nate Bradley, who specializes in changing cops' minds about ending the weed war.

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Is it California's Turn to Legalize Marijuana?

When news broke on the evening of November 6 that Colorado had become the first state to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, patrons at the trendy Casselman's Bar & Venue in Denver erupted in cheers before they hugged each other and cried. Onstage, organizers and friends of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol thanked those who had gathered — the elderly African-American ladies, the young hipsters, the business execs. There were far more people in suits, however, than in tie-dye in attendance that night, and there was nary a hint of ganja smoke in the hip establishment.

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Americans Are Learning Medicine the Cuban Way

 Melissa Rose Mitchell was discouraged. After taking the Medical College Admission Test, she was uneasy about applying to medical schools. In prep courses for the exams, she had glimpsed her future as a doctor, and she didn't like the environment she saw. "People were like, 'What kind of doctor do you want to be?' and it was all based on how much money you make," the Oakland resident recalled. "It was a really scary moment, because this thing that all my life I had wanted to do without question, all of a sudden I'm thinking, 'I don't know if I want to do this.'"

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Is Cutting-Edge Marijuana Lab the Future of Legitimate Pot?

At downtown Oakland's Harborside Health Center, the hairy green buds have numbers. The new nomenclature beckons viewers from within seven gleaming glass display cases. Antiseptic white placards boast authoritative black digits. Each stands erect next to a Petri dish of high-octane "White Rhino" or "Afgooey Super Melt." They read: 7 percent, 11 percent, 18 percent, or 21 percent. Even 80 percent.

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High Adventure Is Hard to Find in This Explored-Already World

Seizing a tubful of dishes from a busboy, Pete Jordan hefted it back into the dishpit. Stacking plates into the huge Hobart washer, he "struck pay dirt: some garlic bread and remnants of crème brûlée. I smeared the crème brûlée onto the garlic bread and scarfed it down. Scrumptious, said my taste buds."

What he called the Bus Tub Buffet sometimes yielded strudel, sometimes schnitzel, because this was a Vermont ski chalet. Around closing time -- "wine o'clock" -- Jordan and the waitstaff swilled cooking sherry together from jars.

Gross grunge-wallow, or what? Was this the nadir in the life-so-far of Jordan, a twentysomething Catholic-school grad from San Francisco?

Well -- no. It was high adventure, or what amounts to that in a paved-over, explored-already world. We can't load pack mules with mosquito nets and pemmican anymore and strike out across the Yangtze (factory emissions, poisoned meat), the Fertile Crescent (abductions, IEDs), or the Ozarks (country-music theme parks, meth labs).

We can hunt MIA soldiers' bones in Burma with Earl Swift in Where They Lay (Mariner, $14). We can build the world's biggest and highest-tech yacht -- as long as a football field, its masts and fifteen massive sails computer-operated -- with David Kaplan in Mine's Bigger (William Morrow, $25.95). We can pop Valium and distribute humanitarian aid in Sadr City with Ray Lemoine, Jeff Neumann, and Donovan Webster in Babylon by Bus (Penguin, $15).

For thousands of years -- like, since Herodotus -- explorers' exploits jazzed our ancestors, reassuring them that somewhere far beyond the chickenpox and gruel lay wondrous lands whose residents wore funny hats and didn't know what thermometers were. Such tales fueled hopes and dreams, even for readers who knew that they would never leave Springfield.

But that vicarious buzz dulled with every new highway, every hotel chain. Frontier is a word we use mainly now about technology. And the fact that one must be ever more careful when describing cultures other than one's own is great for sensitivity -- but it screwed the adventure-book genre.

Yet whatever inspired explorers before still inspires them. Which is why Jordan, whose loathing for authority kept him from the sorts of jobs society expected him to hold, took up dishwashing. It was foul, but it was important. Kitchens depended on him. And as his coworkers traded tales about past gigs, the mention of Ypsilanti, Michigan, sparked an idea. He'd always loved poring over maps.

Twainishly irreverent, Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States (Harper Perennial, $13.95) trawls the dishpits of an Alaskan salmon-fishing station, an Oregon Oktoberfest, a Mississippi Chinese restaurant. Jordan's descriptions of cigarette-butt-studded pasta and of roach-streams that resemble roiling brown leather are indeed gross and reveal what unseen workers face as we unfold napkins onto our laps and raise our forks in restaurants. But that's only part of the point. Mainly this is a new version of an age-old mission: "Traveling the country, seeking out intriguing workplaces in exotic locales, enjoying the freedom of living a life consciously devoted to a lack of responsibility."

If Jordan's quest was to stack, slack, and skip, then Chad Pregracke's was the virtual opposite. And still is, because while Jordan's quest lasted from 1989 to 2001, Pregracke's continues. Armed with barges, chains, and hazmat suits, he aims to clean up every river in America.

Halfway through college, Pregracke was camping on the shores of the Mississippi, where he had worked and played all his life. "I became disgusted with the garbage," he remembers, via his coauthor Jeff Barrow, in From the Bottom Up (National Geographic, $26). "Everywhere I went was littered with trash."

A commercial fisherman, he saw water and shore "carpeted with bright plastic bottles -- the yellow of oil containers, the red of antifreeze jugs, and a rainbow of brightly colored laundry bottles." Huge steel barrels clogged passageways. Cars and large appliances, sunk as a way to avoid junk-hauling fees, rusted on the river floor. At an Illinois campsite, Pregracke woke one morning to see the ground strewn with countless washed-up lightbulbs.

"That was the moment I knew what I had to do." But he didn't know how, so he contacted state agencies. All responded the same way, asking: What garbage?

With a twenty-foot motorboat, Pregracke launched his mission bottle by bottle, hauling "Mount Trashmores" to dumps and recycling centers. Word spread. Helpers arrived. He formed a nonprofit, Living Lands & Waters, and cleaned the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Illinois, and the Potomac. Boating terminology bogs down the narrative sometimes, but Pregracke's passion and big American vistas jolt you back into adventure mode.

With McDonald's thriving in Valparaiso and Tianjin, the nature of adventure has changed forever. Pregracke and Jordan set out not to marvel at humankind's handiwork but to scrub its effluent, its spew. Observing the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal from his boat, Pregracke "renamed it the Chicago Sanitary and Shit Canal."

By virtue of being crowded and careless, we are cruel. That's what postmodern Marco Polos see. That's why Daniel Kalder, a Scotsman living in the former Soviet Union, undertook the industrial-badland forays described in Lost Cosmonaut (Scribner, $13) according to his own antitourist code, a self-imposed obstacle course: "The antitourist does not visit places that are in any way desirable. ... The antitourist prefers dead things to living ones. ... The antitourist values disorientation over enlightenment."

Prowling deserted museums, assailed by toothless alcoholics in Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El, and Udmurtia, Kalder sought remnants of vanquished kingdoms and ethnic minorities "condemned to a long twilight" that is "the ultimate colonization" in a society determined to erase them. Grimly hilarious, Kalder recommends that four years be spent reading his book, "which is not so ridiculous when you consider that four years is approximately how much of our lives we spend shitting."

Effluent, again. Because the Seven Wonders were scoped out so long ago, and reshuffled and written about so many million times, that these are hard, strange times, for sure, for finding marvels.

Why Booksellers Are Going Belly Up

Balloons, sky-blue and gold and arterial red, bobbed against Cody's glass facade the afternoon before the store closed. July sunshine basted the hordes jostling inside, plucking strawberries from trays, eyes darting as if to say, "I'm making history." News cameras swiveled. A fat man with a sheathed knife at his waist, leather hat strung with small animal skulls, perused the horror-fiction section. A combo played Parisian bistro tunes: accordion and fiddle, happy-sad. The shelves upstairs were bare.

One could be picky and say this was Cody's Telegraph to differentiate the 50-year-old Berkeley, Calif. flagship from the two other Cody's stores, one of which opened on Berkeley's Fourth Street in 1997, the other in San Francisco last fall. Neither of them appears doomed, but the July 10 closure of Cody's Telegraph Avenue store garnered extraordinary attention. Local and national media -- The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, MSNBC, to name a few -- have proved generous with their time and ink since owner Andy Ross announced his intentions in early May. His revelation spurred fierce debates, like an endless grown-up game of Clue: What killed Cody's? Chain stores, some said. Changing times, others surmised. Cultural illiteracy. Greed. The Internet. Panhandlers. That missing parking lot. George W. Bush.

The fingers have continued to jab left and right, zeroing in on this or that obvious culprit. But it appears more likely that, rather than falling under the lead pipe of some dastardly lone slayer, Cody's died the death of a thousand cuts, from a thousand blades: disparate and even largely inadvertent but ineluctable. Telegraph Avenue ... slash. Parking ... slash. Chain stores ... slash slash. The remaining perps have thus far eluded detection: transformations in Cal's student body, for instance, and the ebbing of radical chic. Perhaps the hardest cut to endure is that books as we know them are fading, bit by bit, from ubiquity. We can no longer presume they'll always be here. Actual books, with covers and pages and bindings and type, are increasingly artifacts, relics -- old school, silverfish food, without hyperlinks. How long before that $24.95 best-seller, bought on Amazon yesterday, is displayed in a museum alongside rotary phones, cyclamates, and bustles? That's why the death of Cody's hurts: For all those who used to sneak-read as children under the covers with flashlights and books, it presages our own obsolescence.

And thus those to whom such matters matter mourned. Some spoke of an apocalypse. Some nursed a spark of schadenfreude. They asked hair-tearing, dear-God-what-have-we-done questions that no one would ask were this moribund business, say, a locksmith or a Laundromat. After all, family-owned Radstons office supply in downtown Berkeley closed in July after 98 years with barely a whisper and no trace of hagiography.

But Cody's was different. Cody's was a bookstore. In Berkeley. On Telegraph Avenue. In the midst of that five-block span that was, as Andy Ross would tell the crowd that day, "the heart and soul of '60s counterculture."

The crowd ate it up. When Berkeley looks in the mirror, it perceives a book town, a lit-cred Lourdes linked with so many bards and rebels and laureates alive and dead that reciting their bibliographies would take all day. Not just uninflected authors but, to a large part, activist authors with a cause. Rare is any city so spellbound by its own legacy. For better or worse, Berkeley is a living theme park, forever conjuring a heyday that Cody's crystallized.

"Tie-dyed Tears," one blogger proclaimed.

Yet even as the closing of a popular store after fifty years is history in the making, it's also business as usual. And while Cody's closure might tempt some to conclude the retail book trade is dead, that's simply not the case -- at least not yet.

It is true that we have an astounding illiteracy rate: 14 percent of American adults fall below basic reading comprehension, according to a 2003 report from the National Center for Education Statistics. But economic data suggest there's more at play in this case. Bookstore sales -- which include general, college, and specialty stores -- have increased slowly but steadily for most of the past dozen years, rising from $8.3 billion in 1992 to $16.3 billion in 2005, according to US Census Bureau figures. And while these numbers reflect flat bookstore revenues since 2004, they don't include online sales, which have grown enormously. What's more, even as bookstores in general face a slowdown, independents and small chains have fared relatively well: Publishing-industry analyst Ipsos BookTrends reported last year that indies and small chains were actually increasing their market shares, and that these stores had both sold more books and brought in more money in each of the preceding three years. In the meantime, publishers report significant 2004-2005 sales increases in just about every category, with continued gains projected this year, according to Book Industry Trends 2006, a recent report by the Book Industry Study Group. For instance, sales in the "trade" category, which includes general fiction and nonfiction, jumped five percent in 2005.

Yet all the favorable stats in the world can't save a sinking ship. As apocalypse-spotters point out, Cody's Telegraph was only the latest in a sad parade of local independents going dark over the past several years: Shambhala and the Book Zoo, also on Telegraph; Black Oak in North Beach in San Francisco; and A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, whose Larkspur and Cupertino branches have long since closed and whose San Francisco Opera Plaza site closed in July.

These closures don't signal a trend, though, argues Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

"Yes, only 50 percent of Americans buy at least one book a year," he says. "We know this. So the bad news is that only one out of every two people is buying books. The good news is that that number isn't going down."

Some East Bay indies, Landon notes -- Lafayette Book Store, for instance, and Danville's Rakestraw Books -- "are doing gangbusters. Stores are closing, but other stores are opening." In San Francisco, he adds, Books Inc. is opening its 11th branch in the space abandoned by A Clean Well-Lighted Place, and Neal Sofman, the latter's owner, has launched a brand-new San Francisco store called Bookshop West Portal, where a recent reading by Martina Navratilova drew 175 people.

The Cody's shindig was both an anniversary and a wake. Exactly fifty years earlier to the day, having borrowed $5,000 in startup funds, transplanted East Coast couple Fred and Pat Cody opened a tiny bookshop on North Berkeley's Euclid Avenue. In 1960, they relocated to Telegraph. Pat was an anti-Vietnam War activist with a master's degree in economics who, among other accomplishments, helped establish the Berkeley Free Clinic. Fred, who died in 1983, was a Columbia-educated bibliophile whose name now adorns an annual literary award. Andy Ross, who cut his teeth on a Cotati bookshop, bought Cody's from the couple in 1977 and enlarged it the following year.

And the band played on. Shiny Mylar balloons shaped like a five and a zero hovered over a monitor displaying a slideshow of authors who have read at the store: Allen Ginsberg. Gilda Radner. Salman Rushdie wearing shades. When Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses spurred Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to call for Rushdie's execution in 1989, many American stores refused to carry the book. Cody's stocked it even after someone hurled a firebomb through its window.

Those were the salad days.

A cannonade of applause followed Maxine Hong Kingston to the podium. She was the farewell ceremony's emcee: tiny, fragile, fey, wearing a huge turquoise bracelet like a studded ruff. As a Cal student in the '50s, she used to shop at Cody's Euclid Avenue store, she told the crowd. Most of those assembled remembered those times -- silver heads nodded, bifocals flashed. "How strange it feels," Kingston mused. "How poignant and unbelievable we feel."

Cody's, she continued in that reedy, dreamy voice, always "felt eternal ... as if it would always be here." She introduced Ross as "a literary hero."

Hero isn't the only thing Ross has been called these past few months. As a man in the unenviable position of pulling the plug on a legend, he has received more kindness and sympathy than he expected, and for that he is grateful. But he also has been dubbed a villain, a dreamer, a daredevil for opening the $3.5 million San Francisco store last September in a 22,000-square-foot, mostly-basement-level Stockton Street space formerly occupied by Planet Hollywood, a stone's throw from Borders and Stacey's and flanked by other high-foot-traffic chain stores: Virgin, Apple, Fossil, Benetton, with Union Square and Macy's down the street.

The new store is beautiful, with honey-colored benches, edgy inventory, and an airy elegance, but it was another money drain at a time when Cody's Telegraph had been code blue for years. Despite Ross' open loathing of chains, some B-town wags wondered whether he was trying to turn Cody's into one: an intelligent chain but a chain nevertheless, after the fashion of Peet's and Noah's, both Berkeley-born and spreading fast. Then again, a less sentimental businessman might have closed Cody's Telegraph years ago. Keeping it open this long -- because he loved books and loved his customers, Ross says -- cost him a cool million.

Trim and silver-templed himself, Ross looked about to break into tears as he approached the podium. His cashflow has been the object of countless cafe-table conversations, and he has a family to support. He sighed into the mic: "Sales have just plummeted," he said. Indeed, they sank from some $10 million annually during the store's early-'90s peak to around $3 million in the past year, Ross explained. "It just kept going down and down and down.

"Our customers," he added, "were a band of brothers."

And that was why people cried. If Berkeley is guilty of a certain clubbishness -- a No-Idiotz-Allowd, you're-either-in-or-out insularity -- then Cody's was its Kingdom Hall. Ross loved owning a store, he told the crowd, "in the heart of America's most unique and intellectual community."

The crowd liked that.

And voila, the word of the day. Later in the ceremony, poet Susan Griffin would lacerate chain stores because "they're not community places," and Mayor Tom Bates warned that whoever patronizes chain stores is "hurting this community." That was the panic keening in the air: that once there was something called the community, in which unique people did unique things. But somehow communities came under attack. Sucked dry. Sold out. Switched for air-conditioned, logoed landscapes that Ross calls "Potemkin Villages."

Haunting that day's rhetoric, and many of those cafe-table conversations, was this grave-new-world scenario in which faceless drones drift through synthetic atmospheres whose parts are as interchangeable as Lego blocks, all human hopes and dreams reduced to Frappuccino. Far away, sinister fat corporate cats laugh as they tally up their stock options. It's never quite clear whether the post-community drones, those listeners-to-iPods and eaters-of-Whoppers, are to be pitied as victims or mocked as knuckle-dragging dolts or loathed and feared as myrmidons. In any case, among those to whom such matters matter, "Wal-Mart" is now synonymous with a lot of words, including "stupid."

"Cody's was offering something a little deeper," Ross declared. "People want a different kind of information now. But where's the knowledge we have lost? Can we say we are wiser now, or even smarter? Does the Internet teach us the meaning of life? Do we have time to consider the truths of Aeschylus' Oresteia? American cities are becoming one big Walnut Creek, with the ubiquitous Bed, Bath and Beyond, the crushing Wal-Mart."

He paused. "We've come to the end of our 41-year journey on Telegraph Avenue," he said. And then he did break down.

Ross wept the next day too. That final day, a Monday, checkout lines twined backward from the counter thirty deep. The day's receipts totaled $45,000. On a typical Saturday in the late '80s, the Telegraph store did $25,000 in sales, Ross points out a few weeks later. "And that was when the dollar was worth more," he notes. "On a good Saturday last year, I did $12,000. On a good Saturday.

"I wish they'd been coming all along," he says of the customers. "They all said, 'We've been patronizing your store.' But somebody hadn't been."

On that final day, shoppers asked him to autograph their purchases. "What they were really doing was paying their respects," he says. "I thought people would be giving me a hard time, but everyone's been amazing. The people of Berkeley have been so understanding. I have nothing but good feelings for the people of this town. I cried for nine hours. How do I feel? I feel miserable."

At day's end, as well-wishers and a documentary film crew poised to watch a grand exit, Ross spotted a familiar antagonist -- a local who had been banned from Cody's years ago -- outside the front door. So he slipped out through the back. And then it was over. All that remained was the packing. Oh, and finding tenants to take over his lease, on which eight years remain.

So when did Ross first realize the jig was up?

"There'd been a long decline," the owner says. "The start of it was when the chains started opening these superstores all over the place and we were surrounded."

The number of patrons dropped, as did the profits. "That's called quote-unquote 'different traffic patterns,'" Ross says. "Nothing was helping that store. It just kept losing steam. Why? It isn't a simple answer. I don't blame it on Telegraph, though Telegraph deserves a little blame. The store didn't not survive because we just blew it; it didn't survive because people weren't reading those books."

Ross says he'll never forget the day in January when he printed out the latest list of titles that hadn't sold and would have to be returned to their publishers. "On the list was Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason." He pauses, swallowing. "A basic, fundamental book of Western civilization. One of the greatest works of Western philosophy. It hadn't sold. I didn't return it. I said to myself: 'I can't. What's left, The Devil Wears Prada?'

"That's when I knew something was very, very wrong," he continues. "But I couldn't face the fact that we were losing money -- that it was true. I could not face the thought of actually closing the store until this year. A lot of pressure was coming in from the San Francisco store and I had to make a decision quickly."

The Telegraph store actually had higher sales than Fourth Street, which Ross says "is doing very well," but the Fourth Street store had much lower overhead. Launching in San Francisco, meanwhile, was tougher than Ross had envisioned. "Our numbers there were lower than we thought they'd be," he says. "We'd opened the San Francisco store because we thought it was what we had to do to save the company."

It was like this: After efforts to stem his flagship's red ink failed, Ross took a spend-money-to-make-money approach. With so many big popular stores nearby, the Stockton Street location seemed a magnet for foot traffic. Several banks rejected his loan request before Oakland's Summit Bank put up $1.9 million. He even refinanced his North Berkeley house. "We've risked everything," Ross told Time two months after opening.

"I love that store," he now says of his San Francisco outlet. "But it hasn't saved the company -- yet."

Ross insists he would have had to close the Telegraph store even if he hadn't launched in San Francisco: "On that last day when we did $45,000 and there were lines for eleven hours, I thought, Was there another way? It means so much to so many people. Why am I doing this? But truthfully it was the only decision I could make." His voice catches. "I just regret it so much."

In fact, there probably was another way, but it wasn't an option anyone wanted to touch. When sales fall below overhead, the solution is to cut overhead, which means firing workers, cutting hours and inventory, or shrinking the store -- perhaps by subleasing its upper floor. Cutting costs hurts. But what's better: a smaller, sparser operation, or a dead one?

The factors underlying the store's demise are complex, Ross acknowledges. "When I first announced the closure, the media said, 'Telegraph, Telegraph, Telegraph,'" he says. "But there were other factors that someone smarter than me is going to have to figure out. If an academic bookstore -- the number-one academic bookstore in America -- can't survive three blocks from the University of California, then it says something bad about something."

Telegraph, Telegraph, Telegraph. It means a million things to a million people. Ask any soul who's hung out there within the past four decades and you'll get a different answer.

From the end of WWII to 1964, those five blocks of Telegraph nearest campus were a quiet crewcut bohemia with two-way traffic and a supermarket. The founding of the Free Speech Movement that year by Cal student and future Cody's clerk Mario Savio turned it into the radical world capital of peace and love and sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll and manifestos and tear gas. Casualties mounted. By the mid-'70s, burnout-haunted Telegraph had been dubbed "the open ward." Avenue merchants remade themselves in the '80s, spawning a retail renaissance. But in the late '80s and early '90s, a rash of violent crime gave those five blocks a lasting reputation. Back then it seemed everyone knew someone who had been ratpacked -- where an underage mob surrounds its victim, closing in, plucking off valuables with a dozen darting hands.

Friction between police and the homeless grew too. The new millennium saw a wave of mass lootings, which targeted Tower Records, Athlete's Foot, the Foot Locker, and the Gap. Not surprisingly, all four chains have since departed the avenue. As other Berkeley neighborhoods primp to tempt shoppers, a double-digit vacancy rate now gives Telegraph's storefronts a soporific look. In May of this year, 23 area stores were vacant. And many others are in freefall.

Better now than before? Or worse? That's up for grabs. Personal memory mixes with history -- revisionist and real -- and with how-it-should-be. Still thronged with tourists on summer weekends, tattoo studios and snack shops flanking the empty storefronts, Telegraph now and Telegraph then and Telegraph-the-dream and Telegraph-where-Allen-Ginsberg-wrote-Howl-at-Caffe-Mediterraneum all tilt behind whatever lens you hold.

Harvey Siegel loved the avenue so much in 1961 that he gave up a full Stanford scholarship to transfer to Berkeley. "I was a bibliophile, an addict," he now says. "For a person like me, bookstores were a great place to meet girls, to have casual conversations, talk about books." He became a sociology professor at Sonoma State, but was still drawn on weekends back to Telegraph, where he loved buying and selling books at Moe's.

Moe and Barbara Moskowitz were transplanted East Coasters who opened the Shakespeare & Company bookshop with some partners in downtown Berkeley in 1959. Four years later, Barbara and Moe -- who'd made a name for himself in anarchist theater and the WWII pacifist scene -- moved their business to Telegraph, where they eventually bought the building in which Moe's Books now operates and established buyback rates for secondhand volumes that Siegel says were the nation's highest.

The attraction finally grew too strong for Siegel, who gave up his professorship in 1970. "I couldn't take it anymore," he says. "I left academia. I left tenure and job security and seniority." He worked at Shakespeare & Company for two years and learned the trade. Then he bought the store, which is now at Telegraph at Dwight. Last year he sold it to a longtime employee.

John Wong, a Moe's employee for more than thirty years, remembers when life and commerce on the avenue were all about the individuality, the personality. An art-history student in 1974, he'd been trying unsuccessfully to land a job at the store. Then one day while waiting on the checkout line, he watched the boisterous, cigar-wielding Moe singing a number from The Music Man. "Trouble ... that starts with T, which rhymes with P, which stands for ..."

"Pool!" Wong piped up from his place in line. He loved pool. So did Moe, who invited him home to play. Then hired him. Wong remembers countless front-counter high-jinks, all the laughter and shouting: "Everyone was always asking Moe for money. Moe was the softest touch in the world. Once, he gave someone his jacket."

Those were the years when just having a copy of a certain book could mark you as hip. Howl, say, or Das Kapital or Steppenwolf or The Rubyfruit Jungle or The Monkey Wrench Gang -- carried face-out, of course, or read at a cafe table, it could get you kissed. Buying such a book in Berkeley infused it, and its buyer, with cachet.

But books don't mean what they once did. For those who write and read and publish and sell them, that's sad. But it's reality. When street mayhem broke out on Telegraph in the first years of the new millennium, the thieves stole shoes, scooters, CDs. No one looted the bookshops.

Did Telegraph kill Cody's? Hut Landon of the Independent Booksellers' Association certainly thinks so: "I wouldn't walk that street at night." He lived on Channing and Telegraph as a student in the 1970s. "Yes, there were wackos then but they weren't aggressive," he says sadly. "They weren't all hustling me for stuff. Cody's didn't do anything wrong. Cody's was a victim of its surroundings."

Less willing to blame the neighborhood, Andy Ross speaks darkly of something subtler but more devastating: a cultural shift. They're both right, of course. It's all part of that death by a thousand cuts.

First, America's book-buying demographic changed. Yes, people still buy books, but who are they? In fact, today's customers are the same as yesteryear's -- the exact same customers. They're the Rubyfruiters and Monkey Wrenchers of yore; they simply grew up. They're now parents, homeowners, above-average earners. The typical American bookbuyer is a woman 30 to 60 years old. To her, and her male counterpart, books still mean what they always did. The right book can still be a status symbol, a social signifier. But things are different now for the young, including today's Telegraph habitués. The shattering of a monoculture into myriad microcultures has made it impossible for any single book to broadcast: Behold: This is me.

What books once did, tattoos now do.

Then there's this: Turning pages takes time. Berkeley is the choosiest school in the UC system and one of the choosiest nationwide. The average first-year student accepted for enrollment in 2005 had a weighted GPA of 4.33. Such standards, acrophobically steeper now than in the Howl or even Maus days, mandate a student body that is academic and competitive beyond precedent. There's no spare time for rioting or extracurricular reading when you're striving to crank out A-pluses, particularly in the non-liberal-arts fields.

Nor do politics mean what they once did on the avenue. Radical chic was invented here and outlasted its lifetime in other parts by many years. But fashion is fickle. To be cool, a student no longer need be politically committed, or even pretend to be. Sure, Cal still has its activist core, but activists aren't the uncontested stylemakers their counterparts once were. Cody's Telegraph long thrived on that young-rebel monoculture, which is now slipping into a Dylan-soundtracked past. Launched where it was, when it was, by those who launched it, Cody's couldn't help but be a political store.

Sure, it sold all kinds of books, but even so, its events calendar was packed with hall-of-famers who made their careers skewering corporations, conservatives, Christianity, capitalism, colonialism, racism, the prison system, war. In 2006 alone: Sarah Vowell, George McGovern, Judith Butler, Tom Tomorrow, Chris Hedges, Tony Kushner, Jane Fonda, Karen Finley, Greg Palast, Sister Helen Prejean, Glenn Greenwald. On March 23, Sharon Smith and Phil Gasper, a philosophy professor who nominated executed killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams for the Nobel Prize, discussed Smith's book Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the US. On February 4, Chesa Boudin -- the activist son of two Weather Undergrounders -- introduced The Venezuelan Revolution, celebrating a new Bolivarian world. At the July 9 farewell ceremony, former Berkeley Mayor Loni Hancock praised Fred and Pat Cody for being "so wonderful back in the '60s, when a bunch of us in this room were rabble-rousers."

Yet in a series of articles then making the rounds at Infoshop.org, Indybay.org, Anarkismo.net, and IWW.org, an angry writer blamed "Andy Ross' greed" and the "class war" for the store's demise, seething: "Capitalism killed Cody's."

Proving you just can't win in this town, conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage was reading the latest headlines on-air the day Cody's closed. When he came to the news, he crowed with delight. Another irrelevant liberal bookstore is closing, he chortled. Good riddance.

Andy Ross finds this funny, if puzzling. "We carried right-wing books!" he says. "We didn't sell many of them, but we carried them. We weren't Revolution Books" -- the radical emporium nearby on Channing Way -- "but sure, we were a liberal bookstore because Berkeley was liberal, and I was liberal."

Human beings, beasts that we are, gravitate toward comfort. Give us a chance to take a load off our feet, and we will. That's why a key rule of economic ecology is that what makes consumers feel good, they'll choose. And they do choose, as Ross found. They vote with their feet. From this perspective, the minds behind Borders and Barnes & Noble aren't so much evil as simply aware they're selling more than books: They're selling climate-controlled environments -- in effect, book-lined spas, much as McDonald's is really selling salt to make its patrons thirsty and buy drinks, which is where the real fast-food profit margins lie.

At Cody's farewell ceremony, historian Leon Litwak described how he used to advise his students to browse for books at chain stores. He told them to leaf through the merchandise while lounging for hours in the stores' cushy chairs. Then, as he told the Cody's crowd, which applauded, he would warn his students: "Don't buy the books down there. Come back and buy them here."

Not enough of them did, apparently, and maybe that's because they liked those cushy chairs. Or the ample free parking. Or the absence of spare-changers. Or maybe they preferred that ultimate comfort, more evolved even than chain stores: buying discounted books from home. For a certain kind of hands-on customer it's anathema, but for many the convenience is irresistible. Forty percent of popular fiction is now purchased online, according to Ipsos. Online booksellers got 48.6 million visitors in June 2005, up 15 percent from the previous June, reports Internet tracking service comScore Media Metrix. The world's largest indie bookstore -- Portland, Oregon-based Powell's Books -- also does about 40 percent of its sales online, according to a store representative.

Capitalism is competition, after all, and that's all too easy to forget when debating the purveyance of something as ethereal as what books provide, in a town whose tradition is to put principles and precepts before practicalities. But a business can't afford not to be practical in a reality where the survivor is he who sells best to most. At the ceremony, Pat Cody described her devotion to the store as "almost a religion. ... We tried to make a better world by making a better bookstore." Hancock beamed at Cody and at Ross: "You ran an ethical business."

"A day will come," said Ross' wife, Leslie Berkler, "when the world will change again," when today's retail trends will be revealed as "a sad, impoverishing myth."

Now that would be a revolution. Because as Hut Landon points out, even those who still seek out indie stores choose the ones with extra goodies. He cites "these 2,000-square-foot stores in thriving, well-designed neighborhoods -- Pegasus on Solano, say, or Diesel in Rockridge." He might just as easily add Cody's Fourth Street. "A store like that is part of a whole retail community. You go to Solano or Rockridge for the whole experience, not just for that one store. But to go to Cody's Telegraph, you had to really want to go to Cody's Telegraph, and in the last few years that became such an ordeal."

He calls the city's failure to make visitors feel safe or comfortable on the avenue "almost criminal. Not only did they ignore Cody's pleas, but they also didn't think about what would happen to nearby businesses if a store like Cody's was to fold. They didn't think of the traffic that Cody's brought to the street and what a bite this will take out of nearby stores. I guarantee you, because of this, some other stores are going to go under."

At the Barnes & Noble in Walnut Creek, meanwhile, clerk Sarah Blumhorst looks affronted when told that Ross' doomsday vision entails a whole nation of Walnut Creeks. As her mouth drops open with incredulity, her tongue-stud glints. On this hot summer midday, the two-story store is popular. More than forty patrons browse the ground floor while others read and sip Starbucks at the cafe upstairs. On display tables are beach reading, discounted titles, new arrivals, local dining guides, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex. A mother and daughter choose wedding books. A tanned man steps onto the escalator wearing a T-shirt that reads "Mako My Day" above a picture of a shark. A boy spins a manga rack. Legs outstretched as if he were in his own living room, a man snuggles into an overstuffed striped chair with a copy of John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience. The new-arrivals table takes no sides. Dean and Lakoff and Suskind sit alongside a book praising the Minutemen. The store is open until 11 p.m.

"We get people who are absolutely obsessed with books," Blumhorst says, gesturing around. "I mean obsessed. And we get a lot of foot traffic from the movie theater across the street."

The automatic doors glide open and shut. At the first burst of cool conditioned air, patrons shiver with relief. Through the windows, a blister-white sun sears the nearby Crate & Barrel, California Pizza Kitchen, Sleep Train, Gap, and yet another Starbucks. Inside, amid the clink of coffee cups and the soft thrum of pages flipping, heat is abstract. "This time of year," Blumhorst says, "a lot of people come in to get out of the heat. In the winter it's to get out of the cold."

She shrugs. At first, this grates. It seems a sin after so long in Berkeley, where morality is applied to matters such as air-conditioning and what sort of coffee you serve, and where one learns to mistrust the reflex that says: This feels good.

"They like coming to a place," Blumhorst concludes, "where they don't have to do anything, or even look like they're doing anything."

Is this doomsday?

This article is reprinted with permission from the author and The East Bay Express.

The Media is the Message

This excerpt is taken from a longer article called "The Media is the Message" that appeared in the East Bay Express. The story focuses around the Youth Sounds media project at McClymonds High School in West Oakland, CA. To read the full story, visit the East Bay Express website.

video camera

One of the first projects to come out of Youth Sounds was a documentary intended to contradict the negative image of their school in the larger community. In a short film called Life Behind the Walls, the students interviewed kids and teachers about life at McClymonds. "Even though much of what we heard was predictable," says the film's narrator, "some of it was surprising: [We heard about] happiness and pride, as well as lack of materials and poor teaching. The truth is somewhere in between, and the reality of McClymonds is far beneath the surface."

"That's the thing," says Ikeda. "There's a real commitment to West Oakland here, because these kids are so used to being maligned. The people who show up here have intense pride; it's interesting to see. This is a small, collective school."

Jacobi is a senior who is also working on a documentary about his community. Upbeat, polite, and baby-faced, with tight braids crisscrossing his head, he is the kind of student that Ikeda could only hope for. Jacobi is one of four student managers, a paid position. He is motivated, reliable, and steadily learning and improving. When he first walked into Youth Sounds loft, Ikeda says, Jacobi wouldn't speak at all. "I had to sit across from him, lean in, and say, 'You need to talk to me.'"

Jacobi asks a visiting reporter, "You know what the cover for your story on Mack should have on it? Me." After bouncing from foster home to foster home for most of his life, Jacobi currently lives with his nineteen-year-old brother. "As long as I graduate and go to college," he says, "I'll be happy. I never thought I was going to graduate, but things are looking up. I'm in here every day."

The Youth Sounds program is in its infancy, and many of its features are still a dream. Though the first broadcast of the radio station is due any day, the recording studio has yet to be built; there are currently fifty students waiting to tackle projects. One student wants to make a two-hour movie, another wants to host a teen-oriented radio talk show. A student named Kevin wants to make a documentary about his friend who was killed on the McClymonds campus in August of 2000. He was leaning against a wall on his bike when he was shot in the back of his head. He had just graduated.

"Kevin's an interesting case," says Ikeda. "He's kind of an adult kid. He's got a child and a partner." Slim, with gold teeth, Kevin usually wears a knit hat. He looks hardened, and speaks with deep Oakland slang, each sentence ending with "You know what I'm sayin'?" He says he is very motivated to make his movie. "I'm tired of seeing pictures of my [dead] friends on a T-shirt," he says. He seems to know all the ins and outs of the neighborhood, all the players; everyone waves at him when they go by. "If it weren't for God," he says, "I'd be going down the wrong road. I done did things. I'm not saying that I was the best person. I done did things that you wouldn't think other people would do."

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When the Reel Runs Out

Let's all say it together: the Internet economy has finally sobered up. You might even say it's hitting the hangover remedies. After three years of spectacular IPOs, endless start-ups, and liquid venture capital, we are now inundated with stories of profitless dot-coms reaching the end of their burn rates and gasping their last. Every sector of the new economy is feeling the pressure to deliver on its promises to investors, but no one has been hit as hard as the merchants of e-commerce. Just nine months ago, brick-and-mortar shopowners were warning that online retailers, powered by the convenience of in-home shopping and unencumbered by sales tax, could mean the death of real-time stores--and with them, the decline of public space. Now the bell is tolling for the online retailers, and it wasn't sales taxes that killed them off; they're going under all by themselves.

According to the San Francisco investment bank Thomas Weisel Partners, every single online retailer that has gone public this year is worth less than it was on the day of its IPO; the same holds true for ninety percent of online retailers that sold stock last year as well. The online tech magazine Upside Today has assembled a "dot-com graveyard" of Internet companies that have folded in the last few months, with e-tailers comprising the biggest losers; witness such celebrated failures as Petstore.com and the online clothier Boo.com. Other vulturine Web sites such as "FuckedCompany.com" have come into being for the sole purpose of marveling at the Internet attrition rate.

Why, with all online retailing's advantages, hasn't it worked? Important clues can be found in the story of Reel.com, the Emeryville, California-based video sales Web site that laid off all but a handful of its staff three weeks ago. Unlike companies such as Boo.com, whose demise can be traced to specific disastrous blunders, Reel.com did an awful lot of things right. The company created a specific vision for its site, found a niche among customers, established a brand with an ambitious marketing scheme, and enjoyed the patronage and expertise of a parent company, Hollywood Entertainment, that regularly invested tens of millions of dollars and had years of business experience at its disposal. If a company with so many advantages can't survive, what can?

Most people are familiar with the remarkable rise of Reel.com. Stuart Skorman, an eccentric New England video store businessman who bounced around the casino circuit as a professional gambler, came to California and, in 1997, established the Reel.com Web site as a means of renting videos online and providing an exhaustive database of obscure titles for film buffs. Within six months, Skorman had opened a single brick-and-mortar store on Shattuck Avenue, but the real worth, investors figured, was in the online component of Reel's "bricks and clicks" model. Skorman threw millions of dollars into the content side of the Web site, assembling an enormous database of film reviews and trivia about the industry. But while the content side was terrific, the retailing part was shaky; for example, there was no way for repeat customers to file away their credit card information, so video buyers had to type in their credit information with each transaction.

Still, such problems seemed insignificant early on, while the company was experiencing astronomical growth. By 1998, Reel was collecting $1 million a month in sales revenue and had assembled more than $10 million in investment capital. When the company embarked on a remarkable promotional campaign later that year, selling just-released copies of the movie Titanic for half the recommended price, Reel netted 300,000 buyers, tens of thousands of new customers, and valuable brand-name recognition overnight.

Of course, selling Titanic videos at six bucks below cost drained enormous amounts of the company's cash. But to Wall Street, Reel looked like gold. In October 1998, the video store giant Hollywood Entertainment bought Reel for almost $100 million in cash and stock, and despite the jaw-dropping price for a company that had lost close to $20 million in the eight months of its existence, Hollywood's stock rose, buoyed by investor expectations that such a visionary enterprise was bound to pay off. So now, unlike other more tenuous dot-coms, Reel was partnered with a brick-and-mortar company that possessed a bigger brand name, an enormous customer database, millions in cash, and the experience that comes with running a company that actually has to pay attention to its bottom line.

Unfortunately, there were still a host of technical and logistical problems afflicting Reel. Some of these were Web site glitches that in retrospect can be seen as cautionary tales of how not to run an online operation. But others seem endemic to the entire online retail industry, and Reel's experience in coping with these problems suggests that they may be both unavoidable and utterly lethal to an e-tailer's profit margin.

According to Johnnie Lieske, who was recently laid off from his job as a program manager at Reel, many of the company's early technical problems were never adequately addressed, and as sales increased and customer traffic grew, what had once been a minor inconvenience soon became expensive and time-consuming. "When we [first] collected customer information, we just had one field to have their first and last name," Fieske says. "When we [later] switched over to our new shopping cart, we kept the old system, but some people would put their last name first, and others would do something different. So when we got a call for customer service, and they gave us a name, it wouldn't always show up on our database. We were so busy setting up an office in Seattle to produce content for the site that we never fixed the basic problems. We never rebuilt from our start-up mode."

Meanwhile, credit card fraud was emerging as a major problem, so Reel was shipping products that couldn't be recovered and, to add insult to injury, having to pay bank penalties for unauthorized transactions. Then, just as Reel was beginning to enjoy the fruits of its merger with Hollywood, the e-commerce giants Amazon.com and Buy.com announced that they too would start selling videos online. As Reel company managers tried to retool the system to accommodate an exponentially growing customer base, the site was forced into a price war with the two biggest e-tailers in the country.

In the end, what may have killed Reel was the logistical nightmare of accommodating so many customers --- the promise that had made Reel such a hot item to begin with. As Reel began processing such huge numbers (according to Hollywood spokesperson Sean Mahoney, Reel had 1.8 million visits in January alone), the problems of warehousing, shipping, and distributing videos began to overwhelm the company. The two images of Reel--as the online source for even the most obscure titles, as well as an outlet that could handle potentially unlimited sales orders from all over the country--colluded to produce obligations the firm couldn't hope to honor without an endless infusion of cash from its parent company.

"Look at our inventory, for example," Lieske says. "The Matrix will have a director's cut, DVD, VHS, a Spanish edition--all these myriad products for one movie, plus keeping track [in the content division] of all the elements to a single movie like the director, the actors, etc. It gets really complicated. And then what happens when somebody buys ten movies, but you only have five in hand? Do you back-order the ones you don't have? Say you ship out what you do have, and then two movies come in two weeks later -- do you ship them and bill the customer, or do you still have permission to use the credit card number? If a back order doesn't come through, you have to send the customer an e-mail to that effect. All these transactions have to happen over a secure line. And how do you pull products from the shelf when you're shipping thousands of copies a day? That's a tricky business; movies might be scattered from one end of the warehouse to the other.

"When we were a start-up, we were surrounded by videos in the office, and people would say excuse me and reach around you to get a video they had to ship out. A smaller company would be able to deal with these issues, but you can see that it becomes a very fat pyramid. It starts out small, but then the business rules get very complicated."

By the end of 1999, Reel had lost $98 million in infrastructure investments, despite racking up sales revenue of $40 million for the year. Last December, Hollywood Entertainment officials banked on investor capital to keep the operation afloat when they filed papers to issue an IPO. But then the NASDAQ went south, and there was nothing between Reel and insolvency. On June 12, company officials announced that they were shutting down Reel's retail operation and laying off all but twenty employees.

Clearly, while the company made some mistakes, many of Reel's challenges confront every online retailer. Many of Reel's expenses were related to the firm's enormous rate of growth, yet the e-tailer imperative is "grow or die." And if Reel's competition with the Amazon.com behemoth helped speed its demise, what does this suggest for the myriad of other e-tailers, most of which are considerably less endowed than Reel and will inevitably compete with the ever-increasing variety of Amazon products?

According to recent reports by investment firms Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Amazon.com itself has but a year before even this monster runs out of cash. Could we be facing the prospect of massive e-tail bloodletting, as firm after firm dashes itself against Amazon, which will then expire of its own bloat?

"A lot of the dot-coms want to revolutionize business in six months," says Anand Arkalgud, the manager of business development for the Oakland, California-based business software designer TechOne. "'I'm starting a new business, and I have this captive customer base, and I have an interesting thing to sell them.' It's a trap that all too many people fall into, because they think they have this very easy process. But managing services over the Web is very complex. Imagine ordering a pizza. The elements of just ordering a pizza, with all the potential toppings, is very complicated. People set up companies with an idea, and suddenly you start handling this tremendous number of customers with varied content needs. The logistics of handling that can be huge. A lot of new companies haven't set up their back-end structure, and a lot of customers are themselves learning how to use the Web, even as these companies are learning how to conduct a Web-based business. It's a very complex, interactive process."

Activists Offers Free Drug Tests at Raves

It's almost midnight on a rainy Saturday. Inside a converted warehouse, techno music pounds across three rooms lit by black lights, laser beams, and elaborate computer graphic displays. People dance furiously, sip smoothies, and sprawl on beanbag chairs. In an alcove near the entrance is a table with an overflowing bowl of condoms, an industrial-sized box of earplugs, and piles of pamphlets about drugs like LSD, speed, and Ecstasy. A large white banner hanging overhead reads, "DanceSafe -- promoting health and safety within the rave and nightclub community."

Emanuel Sferios, DanceSafe's founder and director, stands nearby. In the past two years, he has attended nearly fifty raves, from 5,000-person "massives" to smaller, less overwhelming raves such as this one. Tonight he calls out, "Free earplugs! Free condoms! Free E-testing!"

The "E" in "E-testing" stands for Ecstasy. A nervous-looking couple approaches the table. The bottoms of their jeans are still wet from the rain.

"Can you test a capsule?" asks the young man. He takes out a plastic bag containing two clear capsules filled with white powder.

DanceSafe coordinator Heidi Eisenhauer asks the young man whether he bought the capsules at the rave. He says he did not, and she enters this information onto a form. Then she takes one of the capsules and taps it against the tablecloth, trying to get all the powder into one end. "This is the fullest cap I've ever seen," she says, carefully pulling its two halves apart. With a knife, she scoops a few powder granules onto a plate. Around the plate's rim are black diamond-shaped stickers reading "Corrosive!"

"We try to strongly discourage touching," Eisenhaur explains. Earlier in the evening, Sferios had noticed small white holes in his jeans where stray drops of the testing solution had burned through the cloth.

Eisenhauer unscrews a small brown vial and holds it directly over the powder. The vial has a spill-proof top, and it takes a second or two for a few drops of the clear liquid to hit the powder on the plate. The mixture instantly turns inky black, and a faint curl of white smoke rises from it. The couple looks apprehensive. Smoke can't be a good sign.

"It's positive," Eisenhauer says, handing the couple a laminated white sheet that reads: "This test produced a normal reaction. It means the pill contains an Ecstasy-like substance."

If the mixture had turned orange, that would have meant it contained speed. And green would have indicated the presence of another drug called 2CB. Had it not changed color at all, that would have meant that it did not contain Ecstasy, speed, 2CB, or any other of the drugs DanceSafe's testing kits can identify.

Eisenhauer says nothing as the couple looks over the sheet, which continues: "It does not mean the pill is 'good.' It does not mean the pill is 'pure.' It does not mean the pill is 'safe.' There could still be something else in this pill." Looking slightly relieved, they thank her and walk off. When they're out of earshot, she explains that this particular reaction -- the jet-black color and the puff of smoke -- means that the capsule probably contained nothing but Ecstasy.

"That means it's street purity," she says. "But we never say that to them."

Sferios started DanceSafe in his Oakland, California home with $3,000 of his own money nearly two years ago. It was the first program of its kind in the country, and since then it has tested thousands of pills. The organization has opened chapters in Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, with up to ten more expected by the end of the year. Sferios says its Web site (www.dancesafe.org), which posts pill-testing results, receives over 10,000 hits a day.

Pill testing is DanceSafe's response to Ecstasy's growing popularity among ravers. With Americans buying as many as one million doses a week, the illegal drug -- also known as MDMA (full name: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), X, and E -- has become both hot news and big business. Its popularity and notoriety continue to attract new users; doses usually sell for $20 to $30 apiece.

"Lots of people like doing it," says Sferios. "It's got a good reputation. It produces a very pleasant feeling. Word gets around and people are willing to risk it."

The risk, he believes, is that what sells as Ecstasy is often something else -- something cheaper and easier to manufacture. "The Ecstasy market is highly adulterated," he says. "I would guess it's more adulterated than any other black market drug ever."

Fake or adulterated pills can be dangerous, he says, and free and anonymous pill testing gives users some idea what they're getting themselves into, though whether or not to take a pill remains up to them. If they've had their pills tested, the logic goes, at least they can make an informed choice.

Ecstasy usually comes in tablet form, in a dizzying range of colors, shapes, and styles. Pills may be green, yellow, white, pink, or purple. Most are shaped like ordinary circular tablets, but some are squares, pentagons, stars, and clovers. They are usually embossed with logos such as hearts, stars, butterflies, Nike swooshes, Mercedes symbols, or Teletubbies.

But a pill's appearance reveals little about its contents. Sferios has screened would-be Ecstasy pills containing caffeine and antacid, and he has found over-the-counter sleeping pills and pain relievers such as Excedrin, which has an E on it, sold as Ecstasy. Some adulterated pills contain speed and other drugs that can make ravers, as Sferios says, "drop on the dance floor."

At the end of last summer, green triangular pills started turning up at certain raves. Ravers who took them complained of dehydration and overheating, common reactions among Ecstasy users who spend hours dancing in poorly ventilated spaces. But those who took the green triangles, however, were also heading to the emergency room at an alarming rate.

The pills contained dextromethorphan (DXM), a common ingredient in ordinary cough suppressants and one of the substances DanceSafe's testing kits recognize. In higher doses, DXM can cause nausea and convulsions. DanceSafe started spreading the word about the green triangles on its Web site and at raves. Like modern-day versions of Woodstock's "stay away from the brown acid" warnings, DJs started making announcements at raves. By the end of the year, the green triangles had stopped making the rounds. But new adulterated pills show up all the time, Sferios says, and users purchase them readily. "People who've gotten fake Ecstasy will still try again to get real Ecstasy. A couple of bad experiences isn't gonna do it."

Sferios had never been to a rave before he started DanceSafe. A longtime activist, he seems to have found his calling as the guru of sorts for an innovative and possibly controversial approach to Ecstasy use. He sees DanceSafe as a part of the growing harm-reduction movement, which emphasizes drug education and direct health services rather than abstinence or criminalization.

"We don't think there's good drugs or bad drugs; there's just drugs."

He compares pill testing to needle exchange, now a well-accepted harm-reduction strategy for minimizing HIV-infection risk among IV drug users. While he insists that DanceSafe does not encourage or condone Ecstasy use, on a personal level Sferios feels the drug has gotten an unnecessarily bad rap. Describing it as an "acute antidepressant," he points out that psychiatrists who had used it in therapy fought the federal government's efforts to prohibit the drug in the mid-'80s. "If Ecstasy was easier to make, it would be more popular than marijuana," he maintains.

He estimates that he has taken Ecstasy about a hundred times, though he does it less now than he used to. He first tried it when he was a bored sixteen-year-old punk rocker in St. Petersburg, Florida. For him, getting high was a way to fight the boredom of living in a town filled with senior citizens. Ecstasy was not like other drugs he had tried. That first time, the alienated teen ended up on a beach listening to an elderly couple tell their life story.

"It was an epiphany," he recalls. Suddenly, he felt empathy and a sense of connection with others, including his parents. And the feelings did not fade after the drugs wore off.

"I credit that day for being a catalyst."

In the past year, Sferios has raised over $150,000 and hired three full-time staff members. He has not tried to publicize DanceSafe outside rave and public health circles, but he anticipates more attention as the media and law enforcement continue to focus on Ecstasy as the newest "scary drug." So far, DanceSafe has had no trouble with the law, but Sferios has hired a lawyer, just in case.

As Ecstasy goes hand-in-hand with the club scene, the medical community has its hands full.

"I'm glad there's a group like DanceSafe," says Joe Pred, an emergency medicine technician who is on duty at this evening's rave. Dressed in a black EMT jumpsuit, Pred moves coolly through the crowd, his white turtleneck and the lettering on his baseball cap glowing under the ultraviolet lights. He has worked at hundreds of raves, and heads emergency services at the annual Burning Man event in the Nevada desert.

"Ecstasy rarely sends someone to the hospital by itself," he says. "I don't want that to be interpreted as Ecstasy being safe, which it's not."

Like the anti-depressants Prozac and Zoloft, Ecstasy affects the brain's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, memory, sleep, and body temperature. But unlike over-the-counter Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which release serotonin in relatively small doses over a long period, Ecstasy floods the brain with it. This deluge creates Ecstasy's high, but it can also lead to serotonin syndrome, a potentially dangerous condition that can cause dehydration, overheating, muscle spasms, and seizures.

"We see a lot of young people who think of Ecstasy as a party drug," Sferios says. "They take it, and they have these intense emotional, psychological, and often transformative experiences, which they have no idea how to integrate into their lives.

"When people come to our table, they're ready to pop their pills. They'd take them even if we weren't there. If they find out they're really DXM or speed, maybe they won't."

A wiry redhead in a floppy hat bounds toward the table. He knows the routine, and hands over a small whitish pill with a dolphin printed on it. Eisenhauer takes the pill, records its particulars, scrapes some powder onto the plate, and pours the liquid over it. It turns splotchy purple.

"It's positive," she says.

"Excellent," says the redhead. Ignoring the white card she tries to show him, he tosses the pill into his mouth and disappears into the crowd.

Welcome to the Revolution

To create the scholarly life she's led for over thirty years, University of California at Davis history professor Ruth Rosen first had to help wrench open the doors of academe to women including herself. Her just-published book, "The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America," chronicles how she and hundreds of other radical women launched a new wave of feminism in the late '60s and watched it crash over America, changing how we think about sex, motherhood, and just about everything else.

Rosen is already known for bringing to light one of the major discoveries of feminist scholarship -- 'The Maimie Papers," an early-20th-century prostitute's letters to her upper-class benefactress -- as well as "The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America 1900-18," about a Progressive Era movement to abolish prostitution. Her latest work, which took ten years to write, is a gold mine of feminist research. For "The World Split Open," Rosen interviewed over one hundred feminist activists and combed scores of archival collections, including FBI files, collections at Radcliffe, Duke, the University of Wyoming, New York University, the Bancroft Library, and Berkeley archivist Laura X's women's library. The bibliography alone -- 31 pages of references to books and articles for readers to follow up on -- is worth the price of the book.

Forcing open academe's doors didn't just help Rosen gain entrance to the ivory tower. It also helped her escape it. Over the years, her old-fashioned academic critics (most of them male) have given her lumps not only over her activism and participatory scholarship, but because she's chosen to write extensively for the popular press -- from Dissent and the Women's Review of Books to hundreds of op-ed pieces for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, to which she is a regular contributor. (Maybe what irked them the most -- given the impenetrable quality of most academic writing these days -- is Rosen's clear prose.) As Rosen says in her book, she wrote it for "the women and men who did not participate in the women's movement, who were too busy trying to survive, who felt excluded or estranged, who were too scared, were too old or too young, were not yet born, or are still not born." As an historian she writes for people who love to read history but aren't necessarily scholars.

In Berkeley, California, where she lives, Rosen talked avidly about her work, her book, and the women's movement:

JUDITH COBURN: I can't resist starting off by asking why you thank Norman Mailer in your introduction to "The World Split Open."

RUTH ROSEN: Two years ago, I was at an annual seminar at Robert J. Lifton's home in Cape Cod, and Norman Mailer was making an informal presentation to the assembled group. As an aside, he said that the women's movement never helped anyone but the women who take the shuttle to Washington, DC with their attaché cases and live like men. I told him how much his version of the modern women's movement was media-generated and without intimate knowledge of what it had actually done. I told him how NOW's first six actions all benefited working-class women as well as privileged women.

He was surprised, but I had just finished my book and knew more than I'll ever know again. No matter what he said, I had facts and knowledge that had eluded him. Afterward we bantered and talked and he asked for a copy of my book. I then reread his infamous "Prisoner of Sex," and we had a lively correspondence. For my part, I told him that I now read his "assault" on feminism quite differently. I heard the vulnerable man beneath the aggressive prose, the man who needed women and feared them. It was quite an experience. I told him also that his great legacy as a major American writer, as well as a progressive activist, will be tarnished by his attacks on the women's movement, and that he should reconsider what he thought in light of the actual history. I await his response.

JC: You have some very funny stuff in the book from Federal Bureau of Investigation files, about the FBI attempting to infiltrate the women's movement, taking all the historical names seriously and starting dossiers on them.

RR: FBI agents were bewildered by J. Edgar Hoover's insistence that they engage in complete surveillance of the women's movement all over the country. Hundreds of women were paid as informants, but not as agents, because no women were allowed to be agents until Hoover died. So they paid hundreds of women to sit in people's living rooms while other women poured out their sorrows and their epiphanies and their revelations, and these women took mental notes. They then gave them to field agents, and the agents then forwarded those reports to J. Edgar Hoover.

In almost all circumstances, the field agents wrote to Hoover that these women are not dangerous, they're not subversive; they simply want greater equality; there's no point in continuing this surveillance. Hoover always wrote back, they are a danger to the national security of the United States; continue surveillance.

JC: You don't think women like us were dangerous?

RR: Yes, but not in the way Hoover imagined. They were searching for bombs and communists. What we were doing was more profoundly subversive, because we were questioning all received wisdom and turning lives upside down.We were questioning the nature of our education, curriculum, our marital lives, our sexual lives, the lives of our children. We were talking about how to change American society, which is deeply, profoundly revolutionary. But not in the way that the FBI viewed subversion.

Every once in a while something hilarious would happen, because Hoover, who was used to infiltrating disciplined groups like the Communist Party, would demand that all the leadership and all the dues-paying membership be sent to him. The field agents would try to explain that there were no leaders, there were no dues-paying members. And Hoover would say, There must be -- get these names.

So the FBI was flummoxed. They really didn't know how to infiltrate the women's movement. Yet there are thousands of pages. My name is in there. Most women I knew, their names are in the files. And the FBI simply didn't know what to say about them. But I must say the FBI is the best clipping service in the world, because every time there was a newspaper article about any event that occurred in the Bay Area, you can find an FBI clipping.

JC: I'm glad they did something useful. The media keeps stereotyping the women's movement as middle-class and white, and has done that since the late '60s. I was fascinated to learn from your book that the suffragist movement was also stereotyped that way. I'm interested in these kind of stereotypes, and whether they were the same stereotype as in the late '20s?

RR: The suffragists who led the movement were mostly middle-class women. But among the 8 million women involved in the movement there were huge populations of working women, poor women, and African-American women. In the modern women's movement, it seemed as though everyone was middle class. But actually, when you looked at their backgrounds, most of these women were the first women in their families to go to college. They grew up in working-class homes. And as a result of their college education, they then looked middle class, talked middle class, were articulate, educated, and they seemed like white middle-class women. Most of the famous leaders -- like Gloria Steinem, or Betty Friedan, or Alix Kates Shulman -- so many of these women were really from blue-collar families. And a lot of members of the women's liberation movement were as well.

What's even less known is the fact that the women who started NOW, and the women who were on John F. Kennedy's first Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, came out of the old left, came out of the black civil rights movements in the '40s and '50s, and also came out of very radical unions. One thing that young women didn't understand -- and I include myself -- was that those women, while they may have appeared to us as matrons by then -- because they were in their forties, and they may have thought they were old and ladylike because they dressed nicely -- were in fact longtime radicals. We didn't understand that these were women who had the longest records of activism. They had been quieted during the McCarthy period, they had raised their children during the McCarthy period, but with the election of John F. Kennedy they came out into the political arena, and they were the most extraordinarily radical women.

And everything they did the first few years between l966 and l973 were class-action suits on behalf of phone operators, textile workers, stewardesses, as they were then called, not for upper-middle-class women. Another example of that is the segregated classified ads. That's something my students know nothing about, that newspapers once had "women wanted" and "men wanted" ads on separate pages. And the very first thing that NOW did was to make sure that that was ended, and that jobs and classified ads were for men and for women.

Now, who did that benefit? Professors, lawyers, doctors, dentists, and professional women don't look in the classified ads for jobs. This benefited skilled blue-collar workers. It benefited women who wanted to get into working-class jobs that paid a lot more than the secretarial and clerical workers.

JC: I didn't realize until Betty Friedan's biography appeared that she had actually been a union organizer. We all thought she was a suburban housewife straight out of The Feminine Mystique. You also mention a group called CAW. Could you talk about them a little bit? I never even knew they existed.

RR: The biography is by a man named Daniel Horowitz. And he's the one who really, in a sense, broke the news that Betty Friedan had an extraordinary past. And now it all makes sense, that the connections between the old left among women, and the new left women, were there, and that this wasn't just reinventing the wheel all over again. These women had the language, and activism, and discipline, and writing skills, and rhetorical skills. So Betty Friedan was part of a large group of women who, as I said, came from radical unions. She was a member of the United Electrical Workers, an extremely radical union, and she was a labor journalist. She made the choice in 1959, which was a reasonable one, to portray herself as a sister suburbanite, so that women would just see her as another housewife who was unhappy, rather than experience endless red-baiting and be discredited. Some people think that was the wrong decision, but the success of her book shows, I think, that it probably was the right decision at that historical moment.

CAW, which stands for the Congress on American Women, was an organization in the postwar period. It was an international organization, but the American part was called the Congress on American Women. These were women from the old left. They were dedicated to interracial activism, toward improving women's lives, and toward improving the lives of African-American women. Their agenda was as modern and radical as you can imagine, and they were devoted to economic and social justice.

JC: Do you think the women's movement ever really dealt with race and gender? To take one example, many African-American women thought when they listened to the women's movement, that this idea that women needed to have careers, just simply didn't apply to them because most of them were already working, already trying to raise children while they were working, and at jobs that didn't "liberate" them at all.

RR: I think that most "minority" women saw the first agenda that the women's movement created as fairly irrelevant to them, except they understood that child care was necessary, that equal pay was necessary, that access to education and highly skilled jobs were necessary. And they very quickly redefined women's issues as being the need for shelter, the need for safe communities, an end to institutionalized racism, and access to education. I think the most ignored aspect of the women's movement is that unions began to take up feminist issues very quickly and create entirely new demands on corporations and companies that included basic feminist demands, such as onsite child care, equal pay, access to promotion and to higher wages. And by 1975, there were hundreds of new movements, and those included working-class women and unions, every "minority group" -- Puerto Rican, Native American, African American, Mexican American -- all of whom realized that their history dictated the need for a very different agenda.

JC: Even though they might not call themselves feminists.

RR: That's right. And they didn't always. In fact, what's most surprising was that African-American women -- not those who were involved in the Panthers or in movements, but just ordinary working women -- supported the women's movement to a much higher degree than white women. This is because they were already in the working force, and they understood that they needed certain kinds of rights as working women. They recognized things like sexual harassment and being excluded from skilled trades and from higher education.

JC: The book has a lot of wonderful anecdotes of just the strangeness of the cultures flipping between feminists and tradition in the late '60s. Tell the story about your friend graduating from Stanford.

RR: One of my friends who was about to get her PhD at Stanford didn't know what to do because her husband was out of town and she had this tiny little infant that she had no one to take care of while she went to graduation. So she took the baby to the ceremony and in the hot California sun she fed her baby little pieces of chocolate to try to keep her quiet. Eventually the baby's face and hands were just covered with chocolate, and finally my friend's name was called. She went up the stairs onto the podium, shook hands with the president, somehow managing to get her PhD in one hand and shake hands with the other, while carrying her baby. Meanwhile, on her baby's back she had a sign that read, "We need child care at Stanford." The audience roared its approval and applauded loudly. She then went down the stairs and went back to her seat. Meanwhile, the president of Stanford wondered what that gooey brown stuff was all over his hands.

JC: But child care is still the most important goal we haven't achieved. If poor women are to get off welfare and go to work, we need to have universal, affordable, quality child care. Clinton said he would do that; it's not been done. It's probably the most important part of the feminist agenda that was never achieved. Why do you think that is?

RR: First, I think we still have a Cold War mentality and assume that child care is a socialist and a communist institution, not an American institution. When President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Childcare Act of 1971, he explicitly stated that we do not want to sovietize our children. After having passed the Senate and the Congress, that act was vetoed by President Nixon, and wasn't taken up again until Clinton became President, who then dropped it during the Lewinsky scandal.

A second reason is that there's still a deep belief that women ought to be home with their children -- unless they're on welfare, in which case they should be at work without child care. Which doesn't make any sense. But there is still this belief that it's women who are responsible for raising the children. Scandinavian countries have paid leave for men and women for several years to be home with infants. But the political shift in the last twenty years has been so far to the right that the idea of a big, centralized government giving money to the states, or even to community-based groups, is antithetical to the larger trend of privatizing everything.

JC: You've said that the young women in the '60s who started the radical feminist movement didn't really know about this history or feel connected to it. Why do you think that the radical women's movement seemed to burst out of what we thought was nowhere?

RR: I think one reason for that distaste for NOW, or the distaste for women who were working with the government, is that those of us who were involved in the antiwar movement did not trust the government, hated the policy in Vietnam, and were so radical about our revulsion about the war in Vietnam that we couldn't trust people who were calling themselves liberals and who were working within government structures, even working within "the system." A second reason is that many younger women felt very strongly that they did not want to live an exclusively domestic life. And they feared more than anything becoming like the cultural icon of the '50s, of being a woman who lived to serve her husband and her children. The younger, more radical women's movement was a kind of matricide, a kind of revolt against the mothers.

JC: In a way it was the beginning of identity politics. A lot of radical feminists really wanted to reinvent the idea of woman.

RR: That's right.

JC: There was a lot of debate then, and you talk about this in your book, about the question of whether women are really just like men, but have been culturally conditioned to believe that they're inferior, or whether women in fact are very, very different from men, but that their differences are assigned an inferior position by the culture.

RR: I think that the '50s used women's difference so powerfully as a means of excluding women from so many parts of life that the first group of feminists in the '60s, both older and younger, really feared asserting anything but sameness. They wanted to be seen as equals of men, and they wanted the laws to operate equally before the court for men and women. Sameness was the most important, the most salient legal way to fight the exclusions that had been so much part of the '50s.

But by the late '60s, '70s, and '80s, women began to address the reality that women are, in fact, somewhat like men and somewhat unlike men. The problem is, men remained the legal and the cultural and the social reference point. So then women began to argue, well, we should create a society that honors women's difference and considers that as much of a norm as men's life. We bear babies; we lactate. The society should be organized around our life experience as well as men's -- not exclusively around ours, but should accommodate with honor and with dignity women's life experiences.

JC: Certainly lesbian women were very important on this question because their experiences were very different than either men's or heterosexual women's, although of course many of them wanted children and committed relationships or marriages.

RR: That's right. Lesbian women were very important in pointing out different sexualities, in questioning what is really female, what is really male, and making that seen as a much more complicated question. By today, there are fewer people around in the women's movement who would be essentialist and argue that women are completely different than men and morally superior. Equally outmoded is the position that women are exactly like men and that there's no difference, and that all the laws and all the organization of society can equally accommodate men's and women's lives; they can't. A perfect example of that is that women are still fighting when they go to work to have institutions address their real need to be both parents and workers. And men who choose to take parenting seriously are also frequently viewed as unacceptable, as not taking their careers seriously.

One of the stereotypes of radical feminists now is that they're puritans, that they hate sex, that they hate pornography, that sexual harassment is really just flirting, and feminists just want to spoil everyone's fun. It's simply not true that the women's movement was largely prudish or primarily antisexual. It's very important for people to realize that the sexual revolution preceded the women's movement, and quite a number of women were thrilled by the idea of sexual freedom. But abortion was illegal, and many women felt that sexual freedom seemed to have arrived on men's terms. They felt that men could use women like Kleenex and throw them away.

So it's not a surprise that some of the most vitriolic and powerful and rageful farewells that women wrote to new left men include an angry statement about sexual exploitation. It's not that these women were prudish and didn't want sex, but they wanted it in a more respectful and a more equal way. And I argue in the book that, for a good part of the '70s, those women tried to find ways to make the sexual revolution equal, to find a way that a sexual freedom could be experienced with respect and equality.

Now there's another, much smaller, number of women in the women's movement who became obsessed with pornography. They got all the attention because it's very sexy and it's dramatic, and pornography is a very hot topic at any point in history. But there were much larger numbers of women who were in fact trying to look at the ways in which women were sexually harmed through illegal abortion, through sexual harassment, through domestic violence, through rape, through marital rape, through date rape. [Those women] wanted to get rid of those sexual injuries so that there could be true sexual freedom and sexual equality. The image of our generation as a prudish generation is really off the mark.

JC: The stereotype is actually the reverse of what a lot of men experienced, which was that they were threatened by women's sexual liberation. That meant that women had something to say about what the sex would be like, and who approached whom, and the whole question of women's orgasms -- the fact that men didn't really know how to give a woman pleasure and that sex was focused on the male orgasm. Of course, most women didn't really understand that either.

RR: That's right. The ignorance level was astonishing. Here's a sexual revolution and there's a whole generation of young men and women who didn't know how to talk about sex, didn't know much about anatomy. The men knew very little; the women knew even less. And so resentments and angers grew on both sides. There was no malevolence from anyone. It was simply a lot of ignorance, which took a long time to correct.

JC: You talk in the book about "consumer feminism." What is that exactly, and how does it compare to what advertisers were doing in the '50s with the feminine mystique?

RR: Advertising changed a great deal from the '50s to the '60s. It became much more sexualized. So in the '50s you see a nice housewife with a shirtwaist dress putting away ironed linen in a linen closet. In the '60s you see a woman who is scantily clad, lying on those same sheets looking very sexually available. In the '70s advertisers realized that the women's movement had become a household word, and they consciously wanted to appropriate it and use the language of liberation and emancipation to sell things to women.

Advertisers began to assert that in order to be free, women must buy. They'll have to buy appropriate clothes to go to work. They'll have to purchase the proper stereos, the proper cookware. And all in the name of being an emancipated woman.

JC: It's faux feminism.

RR: I call it consumer feminism because it's such an appropriation and such a transformation of feminism, which had been very antimaterialistic and very critical of the materialism of American culture.

JC: Now that the women's movement has made its way out into the mainstream culture, and it affects the majority of American women, what has happened to some of the radical feminist ideas? Do you feel anything has been lost by the movement becoming so mainstream?

RR: I think the women's movement is not a single movement anymore. By 1975, I think, in fact, the women's movement had become "hundreds" of movements and there were hundreds of feminisms. I don't think we lost anything, because what we did was to ignite questioning, and those questions are now at the center of a lot of mainstream politics and cultural and social debate. We have not won. There is no national consensus. The whole country doesn't agree with those ideas. But think about the fact that we put abortion on the political agenda and it has stayed there now for thirty years.

JC: You could say that that means we failed.

RR: Absolutely. I totally agree. We have not won. But it is a great tribute to the women's movement that we were able to change the terms of debate. I don't think we ever had a clear picture of how difficult it would be to win. But in fact, everyday life is different. There are many young women who simply wouldn't put up with the kinds of experiences that we put up with. They simply have a sense of entitlement -- that they should be treated with respect at work and in private life. There are many young women who assume that both parents should take care of children. Now this is not uncontested. No idea is uncontested that came out of the women's movement.

JC: I'm curious that you used the phrase "a revolution," started by the women's movement. The way you use it seems very different than what radical feminists had originally envisioned.

RR: Many radical feminists had the apocalytic expectation that patriarchy would collapse, alongside of capitalism. At the same time we were saying that patriarchal attitudes and values totally permeated the culture, so how could we have an instant revolution and how could we expect such a saturated patriarchal culture to change in a moment, or day, or year? So many early feminists just hadn't thought that through.

I think the net effect is that we did start a revolution, a revolution that's very profound, very disorientating, and therefore extremely threatening. And it is not one that occurs within a decade, or even within our own lifetimes. Feminist ideas continue to burrow deeply into the culture; they're being argued about, debated. And that's a different kind of revolution. And perhaps we should realize that the kind of revolutions that women start do not involve building barricades in the street, or throwing tear gas grenades back at the police, but rather slowly changing our institutions, our homes, our lives.

JC: What are some of the arguments that women historians talk about now, in terms of interpretation of women's history?

RR: One of the very biggest differences today is whether to emphasize women's actual social experience in the past -- the social history of women, what they were saying, what they were doing, their participation in economic, educational, sexual, social, cultural life -- or to look at a society and see the way in which it's gendered. One example might be, how did a political party use particular kinds of imagery to feminize certain men so that the men in another political party looked very strong and masculine -- the way Republicans have, in the last few decades, tried to make democratic men seem effeminate if they proposed too much nurturing or caring by the state.

To me, both approaches are really useful, and really exciting. There are some pioneering feminist scholars who think all this emphasis on gender will just exclude women from the picture. And women will disappear again. And then there are people on the other side who think that what's most important are cultural representations, gendered representations of life, rather than what women did themselves, or what women wrote themselves.

JC: You mention in your book having cancer while you were doing the research and writing it, and how even that experience was affected by the women's movement.

RR: The women's health movement was arguably the most successful movement ignited by feminism. It virtually changed medical practice. It attacked the idea that women should be infantilized and treated as idiotic patients who simply had psychosomatic complaints. And most important to me is that the women's health movement said you have to be responsible for your own health. You can't assume that you are a child who has no responsibility. If you feel things, you experience things, then take those things seriously, because it's possible that the physician who you'll see will ignore them or not take them seriously. For quite some time, I had had a sensation that made me worried. I went to doctors for six months and they kept saying, don't worry about this, this is not cancer, cancer doesn't hurt, you don't have sensations. But the women's movement, in my opinion, saved my life, because I trusted the fact that I was experiencing something abnormal, a sensation that verged on discomfort but not pain, a kind of stinging sensation in breast tissue.

And when I finally convinced a doctor to send me to a surgeon, and when the biopsy was over and it was positive, the surgeon and a nurse were holding my hands. And the nurse was saying to me, you must join a women's support group; you will get through this. At the very moment I was being told I had cancer, I was being told that a women's cancer group would be the means by which I would overcome this. And that was so powerful, because she had no idea who I was, she had no idea that the women's health movement had saved my life and she had no idea that the women's movement had been at the core of my life for so many years. I joined one of the first women's cancer groups, which helped me get through it.

So now, when the breast cancer advocates are a national group and have succeeded in increasing the amount of money, this is a direct outcome of the women's movement. And we shouldn't see this as something that's a fluke. This is a direct outcome of what was started by women in Boston when they began to study women's bodies, women's health, and published the very famous first book, "Our Bodies, Ourselves."

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