Thursday, April 30, 2009

Don't Worry, We've Been Down This Road Before

old PSA's for swine flu from 1976.

Live on A's Broadcasting:

Ray Fosse: "It's pretty bad when you're comparing individual players' numbers of homeruns to the entire A's team." 4/30/09 11:38 AM PST.

Well, gee, Ray, you don't say.

Red, White and Blue Sex, and Nice, Sweet Sex

runningwdogs and I recently had a long conversation about "Nice, Sweet Sex." Apparently, on TV, people have "nice, sweet sex." I'm not convinced, but I'm way too much of a prude to discuss why I'm not convinced. The conversation ended up feeling like an episode of "Grey's Anatomy." I couldn't put my finger on WHY I felt like I was in "Grey's Anatomy," other than "nice, sweet sex" felt like something they'd say. I did a lot of internet research about the dialogue on "Grey's Anatomy" and apparently they have a sort of pattern of speech where they repeat things a lot like "nice, sweet sex" (are you getting the picture?) and they coin weird words and phrases (although I would argue that they did NOT coin the word va-jay-jay). Anyway, that's as dirty as it gets around here.

Because themacinator is about intelligent discussion. As you've noticed. Recently, in themacinator-time, the New Yorker published an article by Margaret Talbot entitled "Red Sex, Blue Sex." My kind of article, it claimed to look at the interesting paradox whereby many "social conservatives in 'red states' generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn't choose to have an abortion." On the other hand, she describes liberals in "blue states" as pro sex-ed and not particularly troubled by pre-marital sex, but as parents, alarmed by a pregnancy, especially carried to term. The title of the article is taken from a study by Mark Regnerus, University of Texas, Austin. Talbot sums up his studies: religion is a "good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior," and white evangelical adolescents are particularly likely to say they believe in abstaining till marriage, anticipate that sex will not be the opposite of nice and sweet, and meanwhile, to be sexually active. They are likely to have sex right after turning sixteen, and less likely to use protection. Talbot enumerates a lot of disturbing statistics about chastity pledges and pre-marital sex: basically, if you pledge, or if your community pledge, you're almost guaranteed to have sex by age 16.

Talbot also discusses the relationship of the red/blue/religious divide and marriage: this is less about Democrats and Republicans than "moral-values voters" (oh, I love the culture wars). "Among blue-state social liberals, commitment to the institution of marriage tends to be unspoken or discreet, but marriage in practice typically works pretty well." I was suprised to read, although my cynical side did kick in, that in 2004, the red states of Nevada, Arkansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and West Virgina had the highest divorce rates. The highest teenage pregnancy rates were also in red states: Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. The connection that the authors of this study, Naomi Cahn and JNune Carbone make, is the age of marriage.
"People start families earlier in red states- in part because they are more inclined to deal with an unplanned pregnancy by marrying rather than seeking an abortion... The red -state model puts couples at greater risk for divorce;... younger couples are more likely to be contending with two of the biggest stressors on a marriage: financial struggles and the birth of a baby before, or soon after, the wedding."

Talbot discusses the effect of class and education on the decisions made by teenagers and young adults: access to education about birth control, sex, abortion, and goals for college, etc. She talks about evangelical repression being unreasonable- waiting to 30 to be involved in nice, sweet sex really does sound awful (if you believe it exists). She offers some alternatives and discusses the documentary "The Education of Shelby Knox," which I am about to watch.

But Talbot's argument is very whitewashed. I'm pretty sure that all of the teenagers in red states are not all white Evangelicals. The religious breakdown is fascinating, and I don't dispute it. I wonder, racially, how the other groups she mentions break down. I'm pretty sure the Jews are majority ethnically white- most of my peers growing up were. But Catholics? Protestants (she mentions black Protestants briefly)? Christians that aren't Evangelical? Muslims? There are a whole lot of teenagers having sex that may or may not be nice and sweet, or abstaining, and may be marrying, or not, who are they? This question is not raised, let alone answered. States are not just made up of white Evanglicals or not-Evangelicals. Religious groups are not all white. I'm pretty sure there is a church on almost every corner in this blue state. Maybe every corner in a red state. Are there people of color there?

New Yorker, and Margaret Talbot, I'm disappointed. I expected more colors than red, white and blue.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Best New Blog Award

themacinator has decided it's time for an award. Because I just found the Best New Blog, therefore I've created an award for it. The "Best New Blog" award. Pit Bull Patriarchy only has 3 posts so far, but I love them all. The pit bull popularity craze/fad/madness doesn't seem to be ending soon, but the conversation around them seems to be limited to a few motifs: the shaking of heads about why they're so popular, the types of people they're popular with, the destigmatizing conversation, the bad v. good conversation, the image rescuing conversation, rescue/sheltering issues, etc. This blog goes a step further, and discusses their issues in context: pit bulls image- where it fits into (American) culture, and why. Politics are discussed, racism, Presidents, and social construction (one of my favorites).

I can't wait to see more.

In case you missed it:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nudity and Law Enforcement

or bending the law and paying the price at Coachella.

Warning, this video starts out innocuous enough- I was planning all sorts of tongue in cheek comments for the blog- but ends up quite graphic and disturbing. Don't watch it if you're bothered by nudity (although as the caption says at, the neo-hippie has such an incredibly small penis that it doesn't really feel like he's naked) or if you're bothered by incredibly inept policing that leads to violence.

This video is both baffling to me and a sign of the times. There are people coming up to the incident and taking pictures constantly, and the dude who actually shot the video pans around to the crowd and EVERYONE is holding a camera or a camera phone. Nothing is private anymore, everything is documented, and everything is semi-permanent. When you read books about the past, things get reconstructed- "insert-historical-figure-here probably thought this or saw that or met insert-other-historical-figure-here at Coachella and had a run-in over nudity." Or, "According to so-and-so, he was arrested due to nudity." Not anymore, now we have live, unedited video proof, sometimes as it's happening. Or Twitter proof, which is another subject entirely. It means you can't get away with shit, either, or maybe you can. Rodney King got beaten up in 1991, and it was historical because we had this craptastic video. That kind of stuff just didn't get seen. It happened, but the public just didn't really see it. They knew it was there, but it was the-average-(often person of color's)-dudes word against the establishment (read: law enforcement). When you watch the next video, two things (at least) will stand out- the amazing quality, and the fact that this is not the only video. Also, it is accessible to everyone, right away. It's on the internet- we can all see it. When Oscar Grant was shot on BART on New Years, it was all over the Bay Area before the day was over.

Now to the baffling part. What on earth were these police officers thinking. There are three of them, standing around a naked dude. They want him to put his clothes on, he doesn't want to. It's not quite clear what he's saying at the beginning, but the interaction is not violent, nor even particularly confrontational for at least 1.5 minutes. The whole interaction lasts about 5.5 minutes. He throws his clothes in the opposite direction, the police ask them to put him on, his tiny penis is on display. He drinks some water, pats one cop on the shoulder, etc. It's all calm. There are three of them. They don't call for reinforcement, or if they do, they don't wait for the reinforcment to show up. Various concert goers come up to the scene, take pictures, talk to the cops and the naked man, walk away. At about 1 minute and 39 seconds, the cops have had enough. It's not clear what the provocation is. They take his hands into a restraint hold, but they don't seem to do it very well. One cop has each arm. It's not clear what he's in trouble for (nudity, obviously), but if he's breaking concert laws, why they don't just remove him, or handcuff him, or take him away. Instead, the third cop brings some of his clothes back, and the video shows a guy not involved yelling something. At this point, one of the cops is pinning naked dude's arm behind his back. WHY? Then two of the cops start sort of bending him forward, for no clear reason. Dude is not resisting- in fact, at no point, from the beginning of the discussion to the end, does he resist in any way other than verbally, though it's not even clear that he resists verbally. Now the third cop grabs ND (naked dude's) head, and one of the two cops the arms kicks his knees from the front. That doesn't really work, so they stumble over sideways- two cops and ND. A cop starts to pull ND's long hair. This is starting to feel like a playground bullying session. The other cop is doing something to his back arm that we can't see. The hair pulling continues for about 10 seconds and they roll ND over onto his back. Again, still no resistance from ND, his body is fairly relaxed, no kicking or screaming, and his arms are straight up where they could easily handcuff him. At 3:00, the cop who had grabbed his head makes a sudden knee to his chest. Just leans down and knees him. At this point, ND has had enough and stands back up. The other two cops had let go that awesome restraint they had just performed (the hair pulling one). Someone hits ND with a taser and he hits the ground. The crowd is now really forming. ND writhes around on the ground. The cops circle ND, still on the ground, and then one of the cops holds the taser to ND's chest and shocks him for approximately 10 seconds. He is STILL not resisting. He starts to get up, they do it again. He starts to get up a second time and they shock him a third time in the back of the neck. It appears they then shock him a fourth time in the chest. The cops now grab each wrist and appears the handcuffs finally go on one wrist. At minute four. They restrain him AGAIN and fall to the ground. The video pans through a now angry, but idle, crowd. When the video gets back to the scene again, ND is lying on his stomach with a cop kneeling on top of him, hands cuffed behind his back. This is at 5 minutes. They throw his clothes onto his butt. One cop pats his shoulder and says "Relax man, calm down." He pats him again and says "Calm down man, you need to relax." ND is not moving or struggling. The crowd is booing and yelling "The whole world is watching." The cops lovingly cover ND's butt up.

WHAT THE FUCK!?!#%^ Why didn't the cops escort ND away? Why didn't they handcuff him and leave? Why did they taser him? ND never posed a threat to THREE officers. The cops created a dangerous situation with an entire crowd of concert goers around them. What was so threatening about a neo-hippie with a tiny penis? (sorry, ND) This is why people have such an issue with law enforcement. Problem with authority is justified, when you see shit like this. And as the astute heckler says, the whole world is watching.

Naked Wizard Tased By Reality from Tracy Anderson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Children Are Crawling Out of Houses

courtesy of The New Yorker

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Sometimes catching up on the New Yorker is good- gives me a fresh perspective on things. I know I can talk about Prop 8 till I'm blue in the face and until readers are saying "themacinator, tell us more about BYOBW!" but really, this is something I've never thought of. Hendrik Hertzberg, in the December 1, 2008 issue of The New Yorker, covers my old arguments, namely that we can't blame the passage of Prop 8 on people of color:

Some conservative commentators, who didn’t have much else to gloat about, dwelt lingeringly on what they evidently regarded as the upside of the huge, Obama-sparked African-American turnout. “It was the black vote that voted down gay marriage,” Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, insisted triumphantly—and, it turns out, wrongly. If exit polling is to be believed, seventy per cent of California’s African-American voters did indeed vote yes on Prop. 8, as did upward of eighty per cent of Republicans, conservatives, white evangelicals, and weekly churchgoers. But the initiative would have passed, barely, even if not a single African-American had shown up at the polls.

He discusses the campaign's regrets- timid ads, and underestimating the enemy. But what (how did I miss this?) I hadn't thought of, was the Mormon church. I mean, I had thought about the Latter Day Saints, and bemoaned their part in the passage of Prop 8, but I hadn't delved deeper. Hertzberg puts the irony/strangeness/vexation into context- here is the summary of Prop 8 from the ballot:

Changes California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
—Ballot summary, Proposition 8.

And here is Hertzberg on the Latter Day Saints and polygamy and marriage. The comparison is not a direct one: polygamy does not equal gay marriage in his argument, but the point is still there: The Mormon faith was founded on something that many many people believed was "wrong". They sacrificed part of who they were to join the union. (yuk yuk) Now they poured bajillions into California to stop a form of marriage they disagree with. Strange, yes? (And we all know there are no gay Mormons, right?)

You might think that an organization that for most of the first of its not yet two centuries of existence was the world’s most notorious proponent of startlingly unconventional forms of wedded bliss would be a little reticent about issuing orders to the rest of humanity specifying exactly who should be legally entitled to marry whom. But no. The Mormon Church—as anyone can attest who has ever answered the doorbell to find a pair of polite, persistent, adolescent “elders” standing on the stoop, tracts in hand—does not count reticence among the cardinal virtues. Nor does its own history of matrimonial excess bring a blush to its cheek. The original Latter-day Saint, Joseph Smith, acquired at least twenty-eight and perhaps sixty wives, some of them in their early teens, before he was lynched, in 1844, at age thirty-eight. Brigham Young, Smith’s immediate successor, was a bridegroom twenty times over, and his successors, along with much of the male Mormon √©lite, kept up the mass marrying until the nineteen-thirties—decades after the Church had officially disavowed polygamy, the price of Utah’s admission to the Union, in 1896. As Richard and Joan Ostling write in “Mormon America: The Power and the Promise” (2007), “Smith and his successors in Utah managed American history’s only wide-scale experiment in multiple wives, boldly challenging the nation’s entrenched family structure and the morality of Western Judeo-Christian culture.”

As depressing as this is, Hertzberg ends (ended in 2008) on a positive note: he believes this is the beginning of the end: "Like a polluted swamp, anti-gay bigotry is likely to get thicker and more toxic as it dries up. " It's going to be bad, but it's going to get better. Baby, keep your head up.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Update: Marco Scutaro vs The A's

After one batter in the bottom of the first, Marco Scutaro now leads the A's with 4 home runs to the A's 3.

Go Scutaro.

Marco Scutaro vs The A's

As of today, before the game, slugger Marco Scutaro, now of the Blue Jays, has three homeruns. So do the A's. The entire team.

Go A's.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beautiful Video of BYOBW

Because it may take me forever to figure out my video camera, here is a gorgeous video made not by me, but featuring runningwdogs:

Bring Your Own Big Wheel from michael baca on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

BYOBW 2009, Here We Come!

The moment we've all been waiting for (well, at least Melinda and I, and at least a bunch of other whacked out Bay Area people that I've quoted for months) is tomorrow. I can't wait. I've been gathering teammates, begging for the day off (mission accomplished!), scouring for free and not-so-free big wheels, and preparing for what's sure to be a shitton of fun. Here are some things to get you ready. (Ignore the typo, I can't fix it now. It's been 24 hours of fighting with computers. There's no going back.) Interviews with racers:

Fast Kitty, the adlibber extraordinaire: (note, some material in this interview is dated, and we are greatly appreciative of San Francisco who appears to have decided to let the Big Wheelers have fun.)

Team Tiger, triathalete turned big-wheeler:

And lastly, the ever-ready T has her game face on (and she tells me she's not taking it off between this photo and tomorrow. We may be a little dirty tomorrow...):


This is How, This is How,

This is how we roll.

aka, screens are not enough.

The other day, EK, T, and I were discussing a seriously creepy ad that has been running on the back of the AC Transit buses. Basically, the ads say "Children are falling out of windows," or "Los ninos estan cayendo de las ventanas," and feature some semi-creepy looking children, and they tell the poor drivers stuck behind the bus that "screens are not enough". No, screens are NOT enough, we say! Protect the children, we say! Do NOT let your children get too close to windows! Fear the falling! Yeesh, it is creepy.

So yesterday, I went to blog about this, because Mac tried to commit suicide and to take me with him. I went exploring again, this time in Byron. We checked out this awesome 3 story building with no windows. And no screens, either. Large windows with nice views. Mac is a great explorer- he's all gungho about running up stairs, has no fear of strange, rusty surfaces or broken glass, and is really into wherever we go. I often let him trot around on a long line, because one of the really fun things about exploring is that I don't have to worry about other dogs there. When you trespass, there usually isn't anyone or anydog around.

Mac wasn't such a great explorer in Byron. He was his normal intrepid self, eager to run up and down stairs, to check out each room, to find V when she got too far away. However, he was also REALLY into these large windows with no screens. Dogs were not falling out of windows. They were jumping out of windows. He would walk up to each one, study the view, and then quickly put his paws up on the ledge. One time, he hopped up onto the sill and V literally had to make a dive to pull him back in. The best part about my sidekick is that he was attached to my belt, via the long line. This gives me hands free control of him- he's got 20+ feet to explore, but can't get all the way away from me to go munch on broken glass (something I wouldn't put past him). So, as T said, he must have been reading the news: apparently lots of people are killing themselves and taking their loved ones with them these days... Can't you just see it: Mac jumps to his death, taking me with him. Years later, another explorer comes to Byron and finds two decomposed bodies, one pit bull, one woman, tied by long line. Camera with pictures is all the evidence of what happened....

Pictorial proof:

death by dog

So, I spent a large part of yesterday researching that creepy ad. I tried all my internet skills, but could not find one single piece of evidence that me and EK and T had not made it up. Maybe children AREN'T falling out of windows. Then we went to the A's home opener (they lost) and had a lot of fun and a little to drink. It was great- there was a really sweet memorial for the 4 OPD officers, including a moment where I almost cried- they laid out 4 baseball caps and 4 baseballs on the mound. But then I said to myself, "there's no crying in baseball," and the moment passed. Phew. We took BART home like good local girls, and as we exited the station, there it was. The bus. With children falling out of windows. T posed, and all was well.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Eyal Press: Absolute Convictions

I have very conflicted feelings about hip hop and rap and gender stuff; but maybe Tupac had some kinda premonition when he wrote this part of the song (the rest of it is another topic for another time):

And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up

Eyal Press is the son of an OBGYN who provided abortion services for decades in Buffalo. Press goes to great lengths to show the context of this practice, in terms of the city of Buffalo itself (I think he feels as strongly about Buffalo as I do about Oakland,) the changing times, the economy, the religious motivations of the players, etc. Near the end of the book, he writes poignantly that in the war of words, the "pro-life" people have won: the dialogue is about fetuses and embryos, but not women. Press's father, the doctor, tells him that he must interview some of the patients prior to completing his book.

The thought hadn't occurred to me until then, perhaps because, like many people, I'd grown accustomed to reading stories about abortion that featured the views of advocates, politicians, legal scholars, medical experts- everyone but the more than one million women in America who elect to terminate their pregnancies every year. The latter's invisibility is not owed solely to the inherently private nature of the issue, nor is it simply the fault of the press. It is also a reflection of arguably the most striking achievement of the right-to-life movement in the years since Roe v. Wade: three decades after feminists held speakouts to remove the veil of shame and secrecy surrounding "illegal operations," the stigma surrounding abortion was very much back in place.

This is a startling point- Press and Tupac are speaking to a similar issue: people are out there fighting for their causes in the name of "women," while devaluing the same women they claim to protect. Press says that most of the front-line anti-choice opponents are men who talk about unborn children, but fail to notice the women struggling. Tupac sings about hating women, raping women, and the stark realization that men have no right over the jurisdiction of telling women about creating children.

As fascinating as this point of Press' book is, it is not the central point of the book, and the book falls short of its potential. Partially, Press is left with a less than charismatic central figure: his father is a stoic Israeli who doesn't seem to care much about the drama swirling around him. Additionally, Press wants to lay out the entire scene of the pre- and post- Roe v. Wade world in general, and the Buffalo terrain in specific. Most of this is old news to me, and the telling is slightly tedious. I wish Press had spent more time on one or two details, and less time on the big picture. For someone totally new to the reproductive rights field, this might be a fabulous book. But if you've read anything else, including Cynthia Gorney's awesome "Articles of Faith," which Press cites repeatedly, this is old news. Worth checking out, maybe, but not a must-read.

My Thoughts, Exactly

(from the New Yorker, of course)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Recent (to me) New Yorker Winners

I'm almost caught up. I mean, by the next issue I read Obama will be elected. As EK says, it shows the true nature of timeless journalism. It also shows that I'm way behind, and that the New Yorker comes too often, and that I try to read too many things at once. And, that my new discovery of Netflix on the computer is really bad for my intellectual health.

Anyway, as I catch up, I figure what better time than to share some recent favorites. Some are typical New Yorker length, some are short. They're all worth reading, if you have time and inclination.

Louis Menand writes a short, incisive, and not really book review-ish, book review, of a book called "Txting: the Gr8 Db8". Since Crystal is sort of the author's version of a Renaissance Man (he's written 100 books), I think Menand's take is probably more interesting. The article, which you'll read in less time than you'll spend reading my dumbed down summary, is about the linguistics of texting. Two main appeals of texting according to Menand: speed and avoiding face to face contact. While this is so true, and I'm like, damn, I like this old dude, on the other hand, texting is everything I hate about cell phones- the reason I resisted for so long. Read it. See if it rings true.

The next article is actually the very next article in the October 20, 2008 issue. (See, I'm almost caught up, right?) Elizabeth Kolbert reviews a new book about Emily Post, but as in all New Yorker articles, she does a whole lot more than that. I never quite know how much of the information comes from the book itself or from hours and hours of outside research. Immaterial to this discussion. About an hour before I read this article, I was having a discussion with a friend about the lack of manners, or more, the irrelevance of manners today. Who cares if I put my elbows on the table? If I cross my ankles or my knees? Do parents even teach this shit anymore? And if they do, why? And where did this stuff go, and why? While Kolbert doesn't answer it all, the discussion of Post's life, and why she became the matron of manners is relevant to that discussion, and opens up a host of questions about class, race, gender, and where we are today.

Another Elizabeth Kolbert book review that has really kept me thinking since July, when it was published, ok, more like February when I read it, is about lawns. They're wasteful, they're a sign of class and a way for people to look down on others (and complain about urban blight, my favorite topic), and they're seen as "just how it is":

The lawn today is nearly ubiquitous. Its spread has given rise to an entire industry, or, really, complex of industries—Americans spend an estimated forty billion dollars each year on grass—and to the academic discipline of turf management, degrees in which can now be obtained from, among other schools, the University of Massachusetts and Ohio State. The lawn has become so much a part of the suburban landscape that it is difficult to see it as something that had to be invented.

Kolbert is an enviro-guru. She'll deconstruct the lawn and it's meaning for you and you'll never quite look at grass, or the people out their watering it, the same way.

This last one, Suffering Souls, by John Seabrook, well, I just liked it. Seabrook delves into pyschopaths and the debates in the psych world about the existence of psychopaths (not listed in the DSM-IV). Creepy, scary, fascinating. If you like that kind of stuff.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Fun Saga Continues

As I've mentioned, San Francisco does not like me (or anyone) to have fun. And even though I live in Oakland, as I've also mentioned repeatedly, and with some bias, lots of fun stuff seems to happen in San Francisco. Especially Bring Your Own Big Wheel. I think this was the most fun thing I've done in a long time. It was so much fun last year that I asked for the day off months in advance for this year. I mean, I will never have weekends off, ever, and I don't think I'll ever miss another BYOBW. That is, unless San Francisco makes me.

Seriously, San Francisco, where is the fun in that? I've said it before, and I still stand by it- medium sized groups of adults having fun (and behaving like children) is good for the city. It boosts morale, when there's not a whole lot to have good morale about. I mean, the election of Obama is great and all, but really, it is back to politics as usual, in a lot of instances, and as Obama goes about dealing with all the shit Bush did, we have to deal with all the shit Bush did, which is downright depressing. The rest of 2009 is pretty craptastic- war continues, economy continues icky (I celebrate when gas goes down 2cents and when I only have to take 1 day off a month instead of two...) So, what is good? Fun, even in San Francisco! The city argues that this is expensive. I argue that expense like clean up, and even cops to monitor our fun keeps people in San Francisco in jobs. I argue that we are stimulating the economy- how many of us have to commute to our fun by taking BART or driving to our destinations (buying gas, paying toll, etc). The city argues that we need to be "regulated." I'm not sure why, because this isn't some anarchy where we're all suddenly going to shout "damn the man" and start rioting and looting. We're riding big wheels down a long block. Then climbing back up and riding down again. I mean, organized chaos, but with a purpose.

I am part of a Big Wheel team. We're going. Expect greatness.

Update: SFPD hates fun:
From a comment on SFBG:

Update: BYOBW organizer say they just received the following word from SFPD Capt. John Loftus: "As far as I'm concerned, there will be no big wheels, garbage cans or vehicles of any kind going down that street on sunday. We will barricade the street and you won't be able to go two feet anywhere on that block. If downtown wants to come up with another solution, fine, but as of now, wednesday, that's the police department's position."
So, they're response to a fun event that would close the street for a few hours is to...close the street and ban the fun. Because sometimes you gotta burn the village to save it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Graffiti Saga Continues

Graffiti has remained a hot topic for the Bay Area this week. I'm torn- popularity of "deviant" activity can alternately serve to further hype it up, therefore making it more popular and therefore more hated (as in the case of pit bulls: mo' pit bulls, mo' problems); or, renewed focus on graff could lead to positive community solutions to the "war" on graffiti. Rather than further criminalizing (and in the meantime making it way cooler in the eyes of some) street art, maybe this is a chance to do arts education for the people who are feeling marginalized enough that they have to write on walls and trains.

The online version of the SF Weekly has started a new blog, I Heart Street Art, and the current post is about using murals as a way to curb vandalism. What a novel idea! Refreshing, actually. Quite a contrast to the East Bay Express article, "The Great Graffiti War," which describes the "war" between an anti-graff vigilante and an anarchist tagger, Pigface. The article also describes a draconian measure proposed by the city of Berkeley to penalize newspaper companies who fail to clean tags and stickers off of their boxes. This article seems like exactly the kind of media hysteria that will drive more people to be up-in-arms about graff, on the one hand, and other people to want to damn-the-man and go bomb some shit. Not super productive.

On the upside, both the East Bay Express and the Chronicle state that local governments have acknowledged that graffiti is a low priority. Well thank god. I am so sick of the broken-window theory, and if I hear one more time that someone who tags a building is going to be a serial killer, well, I don't know what I'm going to do. You do know that graffiti caused all these foreclosures, right? Writes the Express:

Berkeley police seem nonplussed about the war between Buffman and the taggers. "We don't encourage that sort of behavior," police spokesman Andrew Frankel said [referring to the vigilante painting over graffiti] in an interview. "If he paints over something before we get a look at it, then he hurts our ability to do our jobs." But clearly, pursuing graffiti vandals isn't much of a priority in the department.

Similarly, although I think Nevius is disappointed about this, he believes that San Francisco does not have a "graffiti problem" but a "commitment problem." As in, a commitment to solving the "graffiti problem." As in, if only we would charge more people with graffiti related crimes, and if only there was a judge dedicated to charging these people, and if only San Francisco would take the problem seriously. And dammit, if they did, there would be no homelessness and Bush wouldn't have lied and I'm pretty sure there would be global peace.

"San Francisco does not have a history of sticking with anything for long," [Gideon Kramer, formerly of the San Francisco Graffiti Advisory Board] said. "We see a big photo opportunity and two or three months later it is gone."

Only the graffiti remains.