CELLIST WARMS HIS FANS: Acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma told his outdoor audience at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre on Tuesday that he felt for them if the night air got chilly.

"If it gets too cold, I'll play faster," the solo performer quipped to a full house in the large amphitheater in the hills.

Ma has produced 75 albums; he's also won 15 Grammy Awards and an Academy Award for best original music score for the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

But he's not one to hide from his fans.

He said he likes playing at the 110-year-old Greek Theatre because it puts him in touch with the ancient Greek tradition of artists doing live performances outdoors.

It's an intimate setting, he said, with a few thousand friends.

FALSE START: Students at Antioch's Deer Valley High School got a rude awakening for the first day of school this year. On Tuesday night, just hours before the first day of school, families received a letter that read, "Due to many teacher room changes, we are requesting that all students pick up a new copy of their schedule on Wednesday morning beginning at 7:30 a.m. in the amphitheater."

That meant students had to arrive 90 minutes early -- a rude awakening for kids who enjoyed sleeping in all summer.

RICHMOND POLITICS KICKOFF: Ah, the campaign season, that time of packed halls, canned answers and fulsome bromides.


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It kicked off in earnest in Richmond on Tuesday night at the Easter Hill United Methodist Church, the august structure that once hosted Martin Luther King Jr. for a visit. The candidates forum, which drew more than 80 people, started with the three-man mayoral race, a field composed of Tom Butt, Nat Bates (more than 60 years of city government experience between them) and newcomer Uche Uwahemu. Each talked about the ways he would change the city if elected mayor.

Bates called the council he's served on since the 1960s a "mess," and roasted his colleagues' attire for good measure.

"They dress like slobs!" he said.

Butt said that if mayor, he "would not put up with a lot of what goes on in the chamber." Uwahemu, in arguably the line of the night, said the other two guys have "had their chance to lead for 60 years."

Butt and Bates both lauded their composure amid the Tuesday night maelstroms known as City Council meetings. In a burst of candor, Butt gamely admitted that he loses his temper "about once a year." Bates countered that he never loses his, and that he "keeps a sense of humor about this business."

Butt, 70, joked that he was glad Uwahemu was seated in the middle, best to keep him and the 82-year-old Bates from "coming to blows."

In November, after dozens more of these routines, the voters will help one candidate deliver the coup de grace and become the city's next mayor. Stay tuned.

ANOTHER EXCUSED ABSENCE: In June, The Eye wrote about Antioch Unified Superintendent Donald Gill getting a hall pass for missing a June meeting for the birth of his first grandchild.

In an effort to be fair, The Eye is compelled to report that Gill also missed last week's meeting -- for the same reason.

Gill, who hadn't missed a board meeting in six years as a district administrator, was in Southern California to be with his son and daughter-in-law for the birth of his second grandchild, Reagan Rose Gill.

CLEARING THE AIR IN 1964: An early example of indoor air quality issues was raised in Albany 50 years ago. The Albany Library posted a 1964 letter on its Facebook page last week from the city's Library Board noting that it "has received a complaint from Mr. Jerome Blank that the air in the library is unpleasantly stuffy. We would appreciate your checking into this matter to find what can be done to promote the circulation of fresh air in the library."

The concern raised by Blank, a former councilman, mayor and real estate developer who is still remembered as "Mr. Albany" years after his death in 2001, was something to take seriously in 1964. The letter includes a handwritten notation from city official James Turner to "open windows as needed."

Staff writers Denis Cuff, Paul Burgarino, Robert Rogers and Chris Treadway contributed to this report.