Saturday, June 27, 2009


I hate having my picture taken. It's genetic: My dad hates having his picture, and in every family picture that he could even be coerced/tricked into, he is hiding in the back with a hat and sunglasses. So that's where it comes from: I hate hate hate having my picture taken, and would be really upset if someone took my picture without my permission (because I would never give my permission) and posted it on the internet. I also am a little bit wussy- I wouldn't have the guts to tell a person with a camera to turn the thing off or away from me, unless I knew them, and if I knew them, they wouldn't be pointing it at me.

Today Jen and I had a conversation about privacy. We both take pictures and post them online, notably to flickr. I take a lot of pictures of people- some with explicit permission, some with implicit permission like a smile and a wave of the camera, or because they're my friends, and some with no permission at all. This might be because I feel they're fair game because they've already got their cameras up to their faces or because they're at some kind of event that makes them a spectacle, almost begging to be photographed.

But is this fair? Technically, it's legal. We can take pictures on public property. Of anyone, even children. There are people who take full advantage of this. They take pictures of unwitting homeless people on the sidewalk and (obviously) unwitting sleeping people. Is this art? Is it humor? Is it documenting social injustices? Or is it exploitation? I have a hard time taking pictures of people down on their luck, whether candidly or asking- it just seems like an abuse of power. Sure, it's legal, but it doesn't feel right. I would be pissed if the same happened to me- if I were just walking my dog and someone took my picture, but even worse if I were huddled on the corner. Photographer Thomas Hawk came up with the idea of giving each transient person two dollars for the opportunity to take their picture. This takes some of the candid element out of the shot, but it also removes *some* of the exploitative nature. Two dollars? 226 pictures have been added to the flickr pool for $2 portraits.

As runningwdogs pointed out in our discussion about this today, everyone has a camera. If you have a cell phone, you have a camera. Most people have the internet, and most people under 25 know how to get a picture from their cell phones to the internet. If you're out in the world, you're liable to be on the internet. That doesn't mean, in my mind, that your picture is going to be easy to find. If someone *did* take my picture while I was walking the dog in the sweltering heat, and put it on flickr, if someone else wanted to find it, they'd have to know a) that it was posted on flickr (not one of the 1836 other photohosting websites) b) where to look- how is the picture tagged? c) have a reason to be looking for me on flickr. Flipping to me being the photographer, if I was out today for any reason other than stalking, it was probably to take pictures of the retarded people walking their dogs in the sweltering heat. I don't know who they are- I'm going to tag them with things like "walking the dog" and "Oakland" and "girl" and "pit bull." Someone would have to be really really dedicated (and slightly insane) to find that picture. According to flickr, there were 6,414 pictures uploaded in the last minute. What about Photobucket, Imageshack, Snapfish, Myspace, Facebook, etc? The point I'm trying to make is that there is a certain degree of anynomity in hosting candid pictures of people that were taken without their permission.

Do I think this is always okay? No. I hesitate posting pictures of kids. I've only posted one or two, and that's not just because I don't like them. It always kind of creeps me out. In fact, it kind of creeps me out when people post pictures of their own kids on flickr (and other sites)- why do they want the whole world to know what their child looks like sleeping, playing with toys, sucking their thumb? When their child is old enough to understand, will they want to know that 100 people looked at pictures of them in the tub? Sure, the same principle of anonymity applies, except that your name is attached. Weird.

I've found some good discussions about this: Red Bubble has a good discussion of how "casual" snappers like me have to deal with privacy in different ways than the papparazzi, and how we overlap. Photo Secrets has an interesting bit about "false light"- it's not a good idea to portray someone in a position that isn't really what they were doing. If you take a picture of me walking the dog but make it appear that I am homeless, that's not good. An historical article by Paul Lester. An interesting blog by a photographer on photographing people.

Friday, June 26, 2009


When I was younger, I would proudly declare to people that I didn't have an "addictive personality." Oh, the bravado of youth. I guess I decided this because I could try things that were commonly held to be addictive once or twice and not be in hook-line-and-sinker. I could smoke socially and not ever buy a pack of cigarettes. I could (and still do) drink socially, but have no am by all rational and outward judgements, a moderate drinker. If I drink 3 beers in a week, that's a lot. I like coffee a bit, and will drink it (I'm drinking a Peet's blended thing right now) but don't need multiple a day. We get the picture. But I've recently come to realize that I have many addictions. You can use everyone's favorite site to read the definition of addiction but really, I feel like, for me, it's the almost uncontrollable need for something, and that that something has a sort of negative connotation. If I was addicted to drinking water, which is good for me, I wouldn't really care. In fact, I would be pretty happy, because I need to drink more water. I suppose if I couldn't stop drinking water, and drank 15 bottles a day and felt lost without my bottle of water by my side, that would be a problem. It might be more of a compulsion than an addiction, though, and, well, I'd have to think it through more.

But take my recent foray into CSI: Miami. Everyone who knows me knows I don't watch TV. I have never in my adult life owned a TV. Even as a child, I preferred to read and left the TV to my mom and sister. But I could not stop watching CSI on my computer. I only stopped because I hit the end of the episodes. I even checked yesterday to find out why I couldn't find any more episodes on Netflix- it's because there aren't any more- the last episode I watched was the last episode made, I have to wait till next season. I have always said that part of the reason I don't have a TV is that I'd watch too much- I guess I always knew that this part of me was out there. This is addiction. And it's not good for me. My reading has dropped off (notice the lack of book reviews lately) and I feel like a sloth- less outdoor activities.

And I am a recovering Diet Coke addict. This is also common knowledge- I've been drinking Diet Coke practically since I fell out of the womb, and on a good day, I could drink the equivalent of 6 to 10 cans. That's a lot of nasty chemicals. There are so many problems with Diet Coke- the aspartame of course, the carbonation, etc etc. People would tell me this till they were blue in the face. I would smile and nod, sometimes answering with my favorite response: "We all have vices, it could be a lot worse." Well, yes, it could be, but really, Diet Coke was a bad one. I basically drank Diet Coke and beer. No water, no juice, no anything else. If there was no Diet Coke at a restaurant, I drank water, but it was like pulling teeth. I used to be all about hydration in my teenage years, but I sunk to a low in college with the advent of free refills. In December, I hurt my back at work, and could barely move. I couldn't go to the store to replenish my stock of Diet Coke, and then I got sick to my stomach and couldn't handle anything but juice. I switched to drinking juice and basically quit cold turkey. I've since allowed myself one a day, if I want it, and am down to about 3 Diet Cokes a week. It's great. But man, that's a lot of years off my life.

The final addiction that I'd like to discuss here, the one that really epitomizes the "things that should be good for you in small doses but really are bad for you when you're addicted to them" definition of addiction that themacinator believes in, is the Oakland A's. The A's suck this year. They suck a lot of years recently. In the last 3 years, the .500 mark has been out of reach. Last year, they were just good enough, just often enough to make me listen to every game possible, and go to every game that I could, and think "oh, they're in it" just often enough that my life-long addiction was was kept alive. I am a born-and-raised A's fan, and even this year's atrocious team is not curing my addiction. I listen to every abysmal game, and even though I shamefully left early on Wednesday's godawful and freezing beating by the Giants, I went. And I watched, and I suffered. It was bad. And still, I will turn on the game tonight. I even have been known to cancel plans to listen to an A's game. I listen to these A's games even though I absolutely cannot stand Vince Cotroneo, and I miss Bill King terribly and hold out hopes that he is faking his death in order to come back and announce more games. (I could make an obligatory Michael Jackson reference here...) So I torture myself, in the name of A's fandom, aka addiction.

What to do? How to cure myself? I will never be a Yankee's fan. I'm not sure I'm ready to give up CSI- it's good to know SOMETHING about pop culture, since I'm so often in the dark.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More News From All Over

I've always been a believer in religion for positive social change. Don't right off capital C Christians, even if dude has "superficial resemblance" to George W. Bush. Gary Haugen works for justice and rule of law (as opposed to corruption) in post-colonial countries.

I know I rave about Racialicious a lot, but they're awesome. I've thought about this a lot, but I'm so glad they post, because they are more articulate than I am: Must brown people be martyred for Americans to be motivated. Reminds me of the post 9-11 Afghanistan- all of a sudden Americans were pissed about the Taliban. Who had been an oppressive regime for ages.

Which leads me to another Racialicious post about burkahs. Interesting read.

On another subject all together- DPS (digital photography school) has been dull of late, but a great post on inspiration when you're in a rut is timely- I've been "bored" with my usual subjects lately. Although county fair season is starting up, and that's always fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Missing the Point, or: Blaming the BandAid

I've been reading a lot of interesting blogs and articles lately about "No-Kill" and lowering euthanasia rates in shelters. I admit, I've resented "no-kill" for may years, mainly because of the hypocrisy. Most "no-kill" shelters abuse that word- they love the hype and attention it brings to their facilities, when in reality, they actually kill, or euthanize, whatever word you want to use, animals and find tricky ways to hide it. Years ago, I read this statement and felt it articulated a very reasonable statement from a limited-intake facility. It reads, in part: "There are few organizations with the money and facilities to keep an animal that is ill or unsafe around people. In fact, keeping such animals while thousands of healthy, adoptable animals are killed because there is no place to keep them could be considered an unconscionable decision." The East Bay SPCA is a limited intake facility that does not euthanize adoptable animals, and does not euthanize for space or time. Of course, every agency has a different definition of "adoptability" and I have mixed feelings about keeping an animal in a shelter indefinitely. Actually, I'm not sure my feelings are that mixed: I feel pretty strongly that in most cases shelters as "sanctuary" are pretty uncool lives for a dog- a social, pack-oriented animal- and I'd have to be convinced that a cat was having his/her needs met in a pretty spectacular setting to believe that that was a life, not warehousing.

The Asilomar Accords laid out some definitions of adoptability in 2004 that can be used fairly broadly, and applied fairly specifically at an individual shelter. Unadoptable animals at most shelters are generally euthanized. You can read the statistics at the participating animal shelter on the Asilomar website. Even the much-touted no-kill SFSPCA euthanized 100 animals in 2008. Obviously, this is a very small number, but it proves the East Bay SPCA's point that there is no "no-kill."

One of the very vocal and influential proponents of no-kill, Nathan Winograd, was the director of the SFSPCA at one point. He believes "we can look forward to a time when the wholesale slaughter of animals in shelters is viewed as a cruel aberration of the past." I think this is a noble goal with piss poor wording. I was recently referred to a pamphlet from the Nevada Humane Society about how they achieved a 92% save rate for dogs and a 78% save rate for cats. This is an awesome pamphlet, and I highly recommend all animal welfare professionals read it. It gives specific programs and tips for how to achieve them. It does not, on the other hand, point fingers at animal shelters, their workers, and the inhumane slaughter of innocent animals.

This is where I believe the "no-kill" movement is missing the point.

Every animal shelter, even the "no-kill" strivers like the SFSPCA and the Nevada Humane Society euthanize animals. Some open door shelters euthanize more than others, and some, for a variety reason, have abysmal numbers. These shelters may not have caught up with the times, they may have ridiculously low budgets (the current issue of Animal Sheltering magazine reminds everyone what I've always said- Animal Control departments who live under the police are like the stepchildren of the department, funded at the very bottom of the totem pole), they may be run poorly, they may just live somewhere where disease and lack of education leads to a high number of "unhealthy/untreatable" (to use Asilomar language) animals. There are a million reasons. There are also many shelters in between what many people call "high-kill" and the "no-kill" shelters that the movement wants everyone to strive for.

But none of this addresses the main issue: shelters, from the best to the worst are not creating animals. They are not creating the controversial "overpopulation problem." Dog Politics sums up Nathan Winograd's thoughts: (I'm paraphrasing here) there are enough homes for homeless animals, because everyone is buying pets- from puppy mills and backyard breeders, so there must be homes for shelter animals. So it's the fault of shelters that animals die. Shelters, the shelter workers, acutally, kill animals. They don't euthanize them, they kill them. Slaughter them. There is nothing humane about euthanasia. In fact, if you want to read Winograd's rebuttal to everything I've written and everything I'm about to write, and basically see his (and most of the "no-kill" movement's) disgust for any shelter not on board with "no-kill" you can just go ahead and take his Virtual Shelter Tour. I'll go ahead and reiterate his warning: it's graphic. And I'll go ahead and insert my own eyeroll: it's more graphic than reality. It's all the possibilities of badness in any shelter rolled into one page.

Off of my anti-Winograd rant and back to the point: shelters do NOT create animals. OK, there's a few disreputable rescue groups and shelters that I know of that will allow pregnant dogs and cats to whelp. This is lame, and in my mind, unconscionable. And I do know that some states still do not require spay/neuter prior to adoption. This is ridiculous, and counter productive. And, I appreciate dialogue about how to improve sheltering. Against my better judgement, I give money to the H$US and subscribe to Animal Sheltering, because I like to learn how to improve in my field. I think it's good that people like Nathan Winograd and bloggers like Dogpolitics and KC Dog Blog are out there keeping shelters honest: there *are* shitty shelters out there. We all need to improve. I can take constructive criticism, and there *are* lives at stake. I mean this totally sincerely (it's hard to read tone on the internet) and part of this blog was inspired by a great discussion from KC Dog Blog.

But pointing fingers at animal shelters and the fact that every shelter euthanizes animals (I'm going to focus on shelters that only euthanize unadoptable animals) misses the point: in most cases the shelter did not create the unadoptable animal. (BadRap's recent blog suggests that poor sheltering can lead to deterioration and unadoptability. I agree with this part of the blog- part of why I'm against long-term sheltering.) The shelter is not breeding and placing inappropriately (more on this at a later date). The shelter is taking in animals that are lost, or surrendered, or abused, or abandoned, or who-knows-what-else. They are cleaning up after a problem and doing the best to turn around and make this problem into a solution: companion animals (or redemptions, etc). If I were going to work on making this a "No Kill Nation" I wouldn't start with animal shelters, I would start with where these animals are coming from. (If you've taken Winograd's tour already, you'll see that he thinks this is bullshit.) I really think a community paradigm-shift is in order. This is a big picture problem, and shelters are a BandAid for what really is a problem, yes: an over-population problem. We ARE a nation of pet lovers, like the "no-kill" folks say, but we aren't a nation of educated pet lovers. We haven't all caught on that if we love our companion animals, we need to care for them appropriately. That we can't breed them all at will. That if we feed cats, we have to alter them, and take responsibility for them. That if we own a dog, we must care for it medically and socialize it- because if it ends up in a shelter, it might end up being considered unadoptable.

Some examples: If an animal ends up in a shelter covered head to toe in mange, with a systemic secondary infection, and is deemed unadoptable, euthanized for humane reasons, or is beyond the resources to treat, what is the long term answer? Of course the finger will be pointed at the shelter or the owner, short-term. Why doesn't the shelter have a foster program to care for the animal? Why don't they have the money to buy the ivermectin and help the owner keep the animal, or some other solution? But long term, we need to educate people who are breeding animals with demodex, which is hereditary. We need to educate owners of people who have dogs with mange about providing vet care in the early stages prior to the dog having a more painful and expensive condition which is beyond the capabilities of many people to treat. Accusing the shelter of cruel killing is not the answer. Accusing an individual pet owner of neglect, while possibly accurate, is not going to solve a big picture problem. When someone brings in 3 litters of kittens over the course of one kitten season, and says they're from a neighborhood cat that someone abandoned 6 years ago, and it turns out they've been feeding it since then; is it the shelter's fault if some of the kittens are euthanized because they're unhandleable or because their eyes are sealed shut with URI or herpes? Rather, it seems like we need a cultural shift to educate people that feeding outdoor cats without taking ownership of them and spaying/neutering is not responsible. Feeding=breeding with cats, unless they're spayed and neutered. Would the time being spent harassing shelters for euthanizing kittens be better spent educating feeders of unaltered outdoor cats? This would lower intake numbers, which might (naturally) lower euthanasia numbers.

And who is producing so many of the animals in shelters? There's the cats, and I have a theory about that for another day. But dogs- where do they come from? Responsible breeders make up a tiny portion of the animals we see. There's hobby breeders, back yard breeders, puppy mills, pet stores, etc. In my "no-kill" world, I would be working on these from the root, and from the buyers- hit supply AND demand. It would be great if everyone adopted from shelters, and it would be great if there was no other option. It would be great if everyone reclaimed their lost pets (Winograd has a slightly mean-spirited but generally on-point article about this), and reclaimed them altered. But bottom line, a lot of unaltered pets are being sold and given away. This is NOT the shelters doing.

I sound defensive. I don't feel defensive, I just feel like the emphasis on "no-kill" is focusing on such a small part of a big problem. Maybe it should be called the "shelter-improvement" program or something. Then the "no-kill" movement could focus on what's really going on: a system that requires animal sheltering in the first place.

Things Fall Out

Dad sticks things in my hand-me-down New Yorkers. Today this fell out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm Not Sure You're Ready for A Dog...

Everyone who's ever done adoption counseling has heard it, but my friend Val finally had the courage to say what we've all wanted to say.

Potential adopter: "We're just starting to look at dogs, and we're hoping to find a dog that doesn't shed, doesn't need to be exercised and is already housebroken." (True story, but you can also insert "is good with kids, is good with cats, can go to the dog park, is already trained, is small, is big, etc.)
Val: "I don't think we have the right dog for you, but maybe you should check out one of those Sony Robot Dogs."

Val is my new hero. At my first shelter, about 6 years ago, T and I used to joke that we needed to have a rack of stuffed animals by the front door for people who had unrealistic expectations of their potential dog. Not just a shelter dog, but any dog. Really, we were ALWAYS going to be out of the small, hypo-allergenic dog who was good with infants, big dogs, small dogs, hamsters, and could fetch keys and beer, and would never EVER pee on the furniture. And animal shelters are slightly different than Nordstrom's- we can't just order up Yorkie-woodles puppies who meet your criteria on demand.

I do not have Val's cajones, so instead of being snarky with potential adopters, I'm just going to list some alternatives to the non-existent perfect (shelter) dog:

Tamagotchi (you might have to go to E-Bay for this one, so you can practice the perseverance and expense of a real animal.)

If you just want the dog so that you'll lose weight- i.e. you're getting the dog because dogs need walks and of course you'll change your lifestyle the second you get a dog, I highly recommend one of those dogless leashes. You can walk that thing as many times a day as you want.

If you feel the need to both nurture something and to pet it, there are Chia Pets. The name says it all- they're "pets," and they grow (chia means grow in some language, right?) I'm pretty sure this is a ChiaDog, and that it's soft. Nuture it, then stroke it gently, like a hypo-allergenic dog that never needs to be walked.

There are also some more simple options: a goldfish (beware: daily feeding required), one of those 365 day calenders with a picture of a dog on each page (these do leave a mess- each page you tear off leaves a bit of clutter behind), or a small child. At least children grow up, and most people aren't allergic to children. Eventually they get potty trained. Most of them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It Happened Because Reality Just Became Real

I've been wanting to write a blog about CSI: Miami for awhile. About the totally humiliating fact that while I don't own a TV, I am addicted to this show. It's bad. The show is bad and my addiction is bad. I really have no TV, but CSI: Miami is readily available on Netflix- you hit play and you can watch every episode in order. At least to season 7 or 8 or whatever year I'm on. That's a lot of really bad TV. Many, many hours of commercial free crap. At least the first CSI, the Las Vegas one, had better plots, more dialogue, and some semblance of dialogue. The characters were actually developed, and it was kind of interesting to see what happened to them. In Miami, well, there's about 100 words per show, and the only reason to watch it is the pretty pictures, to think about how they shot each shot, etc.

There are so many problems with the show. WHY do the CSI's wear hot trendy half-naked outfits everywhere they go? I mean, high heels and crime scenes really don't mix. Except on TV. And even on TV, it's a little excessive. These are the richest, trendiest, sexiest and least believable police employees ever. It's really also pretty cool that they carry, but they don't wear bullet proof vests. I'm pretty sure bullet proof vests don't fit under skimpy tank tops or the suit jackets the dudes wear. And even if they did, they don't have the snow-man look of the vest-wearer. Maybe they invented the world's-thinnest-bullet-proof-vest just for Miami cops? In (one of) the episodes I watched yesterday, they even had Animal Control stop by. The ACO also wore a hot little outfit and some heels. She bathed a dog after she took it as a protective custody, even though she had to "fully sedate it" to get it into her truck. All very likely.

The police officers are back up for the CSI, who solve all the crimes. The lab is like a shiny new toy, and the federal government hides the bad guys because they're all actually good guys in other crimes. The technology involves touch screens and weird computers that you can set cell phones onto and it sucks the data out and puts it onto 3D screens. Don't forget the facial recognition software where you can find anyone's identity from a photograph.

And another thing. Let's just pretend for a second that David Caruso's character wasn't totally ridiculous- why does he get to kill someone in every other episode with impunity? (Again without the bullet proof gear.) Sure, he's a lieutenant (know a lot of crime scene investigators who are lieutenants?), but I don't know of a lot places where a police officer who shot someone every (I'll be generous) month or so could go unpunished. I get it, it's TV. We need sexy babes, we need action in the form of good guys killing bad guys, and a character who is recognizable. I guess that's the reason Horatio (David Caruso) has to say the same lines over and over- multiple times a show, and thirty to forty times a season. And why, WHY? does Horatio stand sideways when he talks to people and tilt his chin down and peer up at them? It's a strange body language tic, and it's annoying.

Did I mention I'm addicted?

The episode that finally inspired this blog, and tipped me over the edge into admitting my addiction is based on "The Bachelor," another show which I wouldn't watch. Really wouldn't watch. I guess girls compete for a boy's attention? This episode starts out with a a pretend show where the girls are about to find out between the final two girls who the man has picked. Of course one of the contestants is dead, because someone is always dead on CSI. When asked why this happened, Horatio answers, in typical fashion, "it happened because reality just became real." The ridonkulousness of this show is also real. And there's no reality about it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

If You Haven't Seen it Yet, This Will Be a Spoiler

But if you're not a real A's Fan, or if you're a real A's Fan who only really cares about the game, then you won't really care.

shout out to becca for the awesome video!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Turned it Off, But...

Yeah, I couldn't really watch the whole movie (Strangers on a Train), but I really can't get over the head turning. I just love it. In black and white, to boot.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

33 Years Ago

No, I wasn't born in June.

On this date, thirty-three (33) years ago, Rickey Henderson was drafted to Major League Baseball in the 4th round by the Oakland Athletics.

Rickey in 1982, not quite 33 years ago, but still stylin'.

Huzza! to KALX and Local Bookstores

I love KALX. This is no secret. Where better to listen to new, random, commercial free music? Pretty much, nowhere. Lately, it's all I listen to while driving, because my CD player in the back of my car is busted, due to too many jumpings-on by dogs in the back, and my cigarrette lighter is busted which means no iPod in the car, due to my clutziness (basically I tripped when the little hooking-in-thingy was plugged into the iPod, and yanked the whole thing out. Typical.). Anyway, it's all KALX all the time. And I'm not complaining.

This morning, DJ Jesse Luscious was on the air on my way to work. He rocks. He played a song by Merle Haggard about how the US was moving toward big boxes and moved into a riff about shopping locally inspired by the recent closure of Black Oak Books. I had been meaning to post a sad little note about Black Oak Books, but it seemed like... well.. redundant. I was never a big Black Oak Books shopper, because it was far away, more than anything else, and because I take for granted how many awesome local bookstores there are. But obviously, I shouldn't. I've already said that I was pretty crushed when Cody's closed and how relieved I was to find Moe's. Obviously, I believe in shopping locally, and putting your money where your pages are. But really, Jesse Luscious said it- he stood on his microphone soapbox and let it out: in a capitalist society, we wield our tiny little bit of power through our tiny little weak dollar.

Support your local bookstore.

Just remember, you heard it from Merle:

“What happened, does anybody know?
What happened, where did America go?
Everything Wal-Mart all the time,
No more mom and pop five and dimes
What happened, where did America go?
Where did America go?”

Monday, June 08, 2009

SF Public Works on Graffiti

Of course they won't let me embed this video, but in a very modern move, SF Public Works has put out a little infomercial thing on graffiti. The video made SFist so horrified that they wanted to go out and tag. I, too, found it a little disturbing, but the video has a few points. First, the propaganda piece ends with a sweet (though not entirely credible) little note that we have to think outside of the box for solutions for creative outlets for "people who feel the need to write their names all over things." We certainly do. And one woman from Chinatown speaks very eloquently about wanting to dialogue with "taggers" about why they do what they do, as she feels disrespected. Her voiceover accompanies very disturbing pictures of some of the awesome Chinatown murals that have been defaced, along with storefronts, signs, and historical (and hard to clean) tiles that were tagged. As she points out in the video, this is disruptive to the local economy and the local culture; "these are not blank walls." I was a lot more impressed by this woman's gusto and points than the white dude talking about the brand new condos that were just built and the retaining walls by the parking lot having been bombed. That really just didn't go very far with me. I have always been an advocate of appropriate use of street art- it is beyond lame to deface a mural (street art!) and really, to tag a local business or their sign? Of course San Francisco is going to hate you.

So, without further ado, I leave you to make your own- now hopelessly biased- opinions.

SF Public Works hates graffiti

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Rare Pit Bulls

We've heard it all before- all of those "tight" "rare" and "hard to find" pit bulls that advocates of the breed know are none of the kind. Pit bulls, like most working breeds, were bred for function, not form, and can, according to standard, come in all colors except blue merle (it's just not a genetic possibility). You'll here people brag about their rare merle pits, though, just because, well, I guess impossible is a rare thing, too. The crazy ass blue "rare" phase seems to be passing- now it's just the blue phase- I think no one *really* believes that dilute dogs are rare any more since almost all pit bulls are some kind of dilute now, but people still seem to think they're awesome. Among fanciers, I've seemed to notice a recent penchant for tricolor pit bulls- not really rare, either. A theory of mine is because we didn't always ID them properly as pit bulls before, they *seem* rare, but they're not rare, either.

Bottom line, pit bulls are everywhere. If you work in animal welfare, care about dogs, or really, just walk your dog in a neighborhood, you know there are a lot of pit bulls. I know this is nothing new- either as news or in the blogosphere. And I know there's no way to accurately count the number of pit bulls- Drayton Michaels of DogStar Daily identifies some of the problems with the numbers. In my mind, the main problem is with counting. Pit bulls can be counted through their registries- American Staffordshire Terriers can be registered with the AKC and American Pit Bull Terriers can be registered with the UKC or ADBA. There are other registries like the CKC that will also register pit bulls, but bottom line is pit bulls and pit bull type dogs get registered in large numbers, but not in numbers representing their "real" statistics. For example, in the AKC, Am Staffs were ranked 69th last year. Yorkies were #2. There are clearly more pit bulls and pit bull type dogs than yorkies. More pit bulls are registered with the ADBA and the UKC, but I'm guessing even more pit bulls are unregistered every year.

The other way I would go about estimating the number of pit bulls is by shelter statistics. The average shelter worker in California would tell you that at any given time, their shelter is 1/3 to 2/3 full of pit bulls (I've asked at a recent seminar for California shelter workers). Does this mean 1/3-2/3 of dogs in California are pit bulls? I don't think this is true, either. Pit bulls are still considered way too cool, and way too disposable to be kept for life, and so represent a disproportionate number of dogs in shelters. They have large litters, and even though everyone thinks that their 15 friends and families will come through for those adorable little puppies, they never all do. So puppies end up in the shelters. And so do the young adult dogs who aren't as cute any more, and aren't so quiet and small anymore, etc. But I don't think that 2/3 of all dogs in California are pit bulls. There are a lot of reasons to surrender your pit bull to the shelter- landlord issues, unrealistic expectations, dog aggression, etc. There are less homes to "rehome" your pit bull to than your yorkie- the shelter is going to get a pit bull before it gets your yorkie.

But bottom line, pit bulls are a dime a dozen. White ones, brown ones, blue ones. Blue puppies, American Bullies, dogs with cropped ears, natural ears, black dogs, seal dogs, ADBA style pit bulls.

But I have a rare pit bull. He's an old pit bull. A senior pit bull. A veteran. When I walk him down the street, people tell me he's old and kind of marvel. He's only 8. He's gray all around the face, and looks, well, old, but he's not decrepit. We don't get a lot of senior bulldogs in the shelter. They certainly don't make up 2/3 of any shelter population, or any other population I've ever seen. Hopefully we'll make old pit bulls less rare- puppies will become rare, and veteran bulldogs will be all kind of common, everywhere except the shelter.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Keeping a Veteran Happy

Running With Dogs and I both have older dogs. Neither Mole or Mac are allowed to die, so that's no problem, but I can't lie- they're both getting older. They are not, however, senior dogs. I get a little touchy when people suggest that Mac is a senior- just because he's 8 and gray around the edges and a little stiff and way way calmer than he used to be, well, that doesn't mean he's old. Senior implies old. I recently learned, however, that he's what's called, in the fancy pants show and competition world, a "veteran." So is Mole. I think "veteran" is a much nicer word for both of these gentlemen.

T recently posted that she was humbled by Mole's willingness to do pretty much anything she asked of him. I can't say I was totally surprised by Mole, or by T- I live with both of them, and they are a super awesome team and Mole is a total Momma's boy, but I can say that I totally understand the feeling. Even veterans can teach their human partners new things or just remind us how awesome it is to have a relationship with a dog. Mole and T have been together a long time, but they're still learning new things and growing together. (Not growing old together, just... growing.)

So, I confess, that I have also been doing new things with my veteran. EK outed us about a month ago, but it's true, EK, Stella, Mac, and I have been dancing. Well, the first three have been dancing, and I have been trying my hardest not to trip on my toenails or fall on my face or step on Mac too many times in 45 minutes or, well, you get the picture. I try to take Mac to a training class every year to keep him mannerly, and because it makes him happy. He knows his basics- he can come, sit, down, stay, and a few other things. But he loooooooves class. He wags his fool tail so hard that I worry it will break. He prances like a circus pony. So this dance class, well, it makes Mac Attack the happiest veteran I've ever seen. He acts like a puppy, only a very very tired puppy, as he pants practically as soon as we pull up to class. Mac gives me so much, it's like the least I can do to make him this happy once a week.

Veterans can learn new tricks. Their owners are another story.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Worst Idea Ever Award

I love KALX, I really do. Sometimes they play terrible music, though, so bad that I can't even finish the song, and have to change the station to some commercial station playing the same horrid song I've heard a million times, or a commercial touting the "Diet Cola for Men". But this music is not KALX's fault, which is why it's time for themacinator to introduce the newest award:

The Worst Idea Ever.

Apparently Ben Folds decided to go around the country and tape a capella groups covering his songs. He made an album from these songs. And KALX played one of these songs. The song I heard, UNC Chapel Hell's version of "Jesusland" was so bad I had to change the channel. Maybe it was good, and just got on everyone of my last nerves, but that is a generous "maybe." The song brings back every bad memory of prep school (I didn't even GO to prep school!) and of Ivy League colleges and their cohorts (again, I didn't go to an Ivy). The press release even mentions the Whiffenpoofs. I mean, really? There's the almost-in-tuneness of it all, and the fake little beat-boxing. The higher registers that belong to real singers (man, I'm a snob) and the way that any potential for goodness in this song is just sucked out of it. I don't know "Jesusland" but I have absolutely no desire to know it now.

If you want to hear the song, click "really bad a capella". I warn you, it's bad. I'm not even going to listen to it. I've heard enough of the first few lines while publishing this that I might cry. You don't have to listen, either, but what good would this post be without a demonstration of just how bad this idea is?

really bad a capella

The End of Books?

Almost exactly a year ago I posted a blog about the end of reading. Along with the New Yorker, I lamented the sad fact that people just don't read. About two months ago, I highlighted another New Yorker piece about how cell phones are changing language. Well, the New Yorker has now put it all together for me: apparently people in Japan now write entire novels on cell phones. Part of me thinks this is awesome- I mean, using technology in new, innovative, positive ways is great, right? Part of me, though, is innately very conservative, especially when it comes to books and bookstores, and the tangible part of reading.

For example, my dad reads from a Kindle (I guarantee he doesn't look as creepy as that lady on the couch), and swears by it. He is a huge reader- gives me the majority of the books I review here- of all kinds of books, and just loves that thing. He reads faster on it, it's easier on his eyes, and for the first year or two of ownership, most books were accessible on it. He's only recently running out of books to read on the Kindle. I have been offered a Kindle and declined. Not only do I have 8bajillion books to read on my shelf (one of the reasons for starting this blog) but I love bookstores. There's something about walking into a bookstore that I feel like won't be achieved when shopping for online books for a Kindle. I can't quite picture walking into a store and shopping for "virtual" titles? How can I judge a book by its virtual cover? Not the same. This is part of my resistance. Plus, I don't really like reading on the screen. It hurts my eyes, and I have to sit up if it's on the computer, and geez. I have a lot of complaints.

So back to cell phone novels. We all know that Japan is on the cutting edge technology, so I expect to see these cell phone novels in the states in the future. Not the near future, necessarily, because the US is always way behind, but one day. Young women are writing these books in installments on their phones, making them up as they go along. They're all sort of romances with traditional themes of love lost and love found and tragic melodrama. The authors like to remain anonymous and out of the spotlight. And the books are blockbusters- they sell way better than any traditional book in the country (and probably more than any book here, either). Apparently, this is the "book" of the future. As a reader, I'm ambivalent. So are some feminist theorists:

But the stories themselves often evince a conservative viewpoint: women suffer passively, the victims of their emotions and their physiology; true love prevails. “From a feminist perspective, for women and girls to be able to speak about themselves is very important,” Satoko Kan, a professor who specializes in contemporary women’s literature, said. “As a method, it leads to the empowerment of girls. But, in terms of content, I find it quite questionable, because it just reinforces norms that are popular in male-dominated culture.”

As the "books" are not really edited- they're texted to kind of online companies, if i understand right- this genre doesn't seem likely to change much as it stands. It's selling, so why modify it to be more empowering for the women involved? Ode to the free market, right? And the authors don't make much from the "books", which seems to feed into the sort of passivity for both the characters and the authors. My ambivalence continues- to the medium, the genre, everything about it. And, if this type of "trash" is the only type of cellphonenovel out there, it's what's going to be read. Awesome. Call me conservative and reactive. I guess I'll take the Kindle over this.

Monday, June 01, 2009

More Bits and Pieces

You've probably heard, but George Tiller was shot yesterday. Dr Tiller provided abortion services for something like 30 years and had already been shot once, in 1993. I haven't found any direct action sites yet, but stay tuned with NARAL and I'm sure they'll have some good tips. In the meantime, thoughts to Dr Tiller's family, and let's move forward in a positive, constructive way.

Luisa at Lassie, Get Help has a fine piece on ethical hunting for food. I'm a vegetarian, but I hate dogma. I think we do and think a lot of things "just because." For example: "I hunt because we always did it." Or, "I'm a vegetarian because it's the right thing to do." Neither of those is a particularly well thought out position. Lassie, Get Help has some finer points to consider.

that's all for now, folks. Later- a rooster and kitten analysis.