Sunday, May 31, 2009

(The following is one of several flash fiction pieces I've written recently)

The Bench

He was kicking the pebbles with the toe of his sneaker. With furrowed brow weighing heavy as shoulders, he felt the sagging despair of words lost in the thunderclap. She breathed and waited for something to happen, anything; a hurdle to slow the steady beat of her heart. Her teeth began to chatter seconds past the first chilled drop of rain hit the back of her neck now arched to the sky.

Moments alone together were as fleeting as the clouds overhead, and they both knew it. But teenage pride was hard to shake, every word muttered too ripe for the mocking. She felt invisible to him as he took the Swiss Army knife to the seat of the bench, piercing the space that separated him from the warm flesh he felt helpless before. A last act of faith, he thought, a faith that she wouldn’t forget him as the seasons waltzed along and left them both adrift. School’s out for summer, as the Top 40 song went—school’s out forever.

The fog was too thick to see whales. The rest of the class had vanished towards the bus. He removed his hand from the wooden bench and revealed the markings he had carved, “Tim and Anna ’73.”
"From Burger It Came"

People who do not believe in sex education in the schools should watch this animated short film by Dominic Bisignano. Children should not live in fear that they may one day contract HIV/AIDS from eating a hamburger--it just isn't right.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Oh Snap!

For my third installment of Oh Snap! I'd like to do something a little different. Instead of recounting some heated argument from long ago and then writing down a major burn that I just thought of as I sat at my computer several months or years later, I will recount a total burn that I blurted out in public just yesterday as a man attempted to steal my wallet from my purse.

Today's Snap finds our hero (me) uncomfortably shuffling towards the center of a sardine tin bus on her way to the Upper Haight district of the city of San Francisco. Her left arm is raised to grasp the bar well above her head for support. Her right is extended along the front of a medium-sized black satchel that has been left open, due to the fact that a large San Francisco magazine with Barack Obama on the cover is jutting out. She looks over towards the purse, thinking of checking the time on her phone, when she notices a heavy-set man of African American descent with a black Raider's jacket. He is holding his jacket over his hand which is slowly hovering above her purse, disabling her from looking inside.

Amity: Are you trying to steal something from my purse?

Pickpocket: (In authoritave tone of indignation) EXCUSE ME?!

Amity: You're trying to get into my purse. GEEE-SUS!

She moves further back in the bus, away from him, covering the top of her bag. A few stops down, her eyes move hawkish and she carefully studies the hands of the pickpocket as he walks towards the back of the bus as well. She is cushioned by a few men of medium height, but can still see the pickpocket's every move.

She notices that the pickpocket is now dangerously close to a short girl of college age who is carrying a messenger bag. As the bus pushes forward from its last stop, the pickpocket suddenly adjusts himself and moves away from her, putting his sports jacket on. The girl zips the side pocket of her bag, and scowls up at the pickpocket.

Girl: Hey, come on.

Amity: (yelling so that her voice carries across entire bus) IS HE TRYING TO STEAL FROM YOU TOO?

Everyone stares at our hero as if she were certifiable.

Girl nods. A soft-spoken Asian man to our hero's right asks who stole from her.


Random black man from the back of the bus: SURE, BLAME THE BLACK MAN!


Random: You know our president's a black man!


The pickpocket is now hurriedly moving out the door of the bus, with the random man trailing him. Our hero looks down at her magazine, saddened that our president's name has been used in vain.

Doogie Howser Orchestra

I never even really liked this show, but now I am caught up in both nostalgia and want in equal measure.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Endurance and the American Way

“Here in the half-light they lie, these sprawling, unconscious forms, their cots side by side, their clothing hung in listless disarray ... a girl is sprawled, her lips moving in pain, as she moans incoherently, and jerks her hands. Bending over her is a man, her ‘trainer’ apparently, who massages her swollen feet with some ointment. Beside her, another girl is lying, her mouth open to reveal her gold-crowned molars, while flies crawl across her closed eyes and buzz against her chin.” (Alice Elinor, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 8, 1928).

The above passage is from a news article on Depression Era dance marathons. Marathons which involved depraved, poverty-striken American couples dancing for an average of 40 days straight with 15 minute breaks every hour. Dancers were motivated by the 12 meals (hardly square) they received each day, as well as a grand prize of--in some cases--roughly a thousand dollars cash. Meanwhile, motivation for the organizers consisted of all the income to be made from wealthy onlookers with nothing better to do. June Havoc, a former child actor and participant in such dances in the 30s as a teenager, explained to Time magazine in 1959:

“Our degradation was entertainment; sadism was sexy; masochism was talent.”

My interest on the subject was aroused as I sat through my third viewing of the 1969 Sydney Pollack film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starring Jane Fonda. And my interest in watching this film yet again came from being introduced to "Dancing with the Stars"--a far cry from the brutal marathon style; nevertheless, degrading and strange on some level.

What strikes me about dance show entertainment--whether it is performed to garner attention to professional performers, or to degrade average Americans competing for sustenance, is that it is a perversion of dance--pure and simple. When I think of dancing couples I want to think of old-timey romance; innocent encounters with first loves. I don't want to think of C-list celebrities in gaudy ice skating outfits smiling until their faces are sore. And I sure as hell don't want to think of men and women on the brink of collapse, swaying back and forth like circus animals in a Depression Era scheudenfraude.

Here are some fun archival pics of dance marathons I found upon investigation:


This is the death of dance and romance. This is the American Way.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tupac is Dead

I don't care what TMZ reports. I know that Tupac Shakur is dead because rap music is dead. I fortuitously discovered one of his songs long forgotten on ye 'ole iPod shuffle the other day, "Keep Ya Head Up." The lyrics are provocative, catchy; overwhelmingly positive and pro-woman. I'd never paid attention to them before--I just liked the song's melody and danciness. Got a nice bounce to it. Anyhew, if only more rappers followed this brave man's lead into writing intelligible, respectful songs about women, I do believe rap would not be Tupac.

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
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up


Monday, May 04, 2009

Golden Gate Park totally dissed

Last month's issue of California Home and Design listed Mission Bay Park as the Number One park in San Francisco. That park looks like this:

Ah, California Home and Design: catering to folks who really don't know much about anything outside of the home. Remarkably, although one of my favorites, Dolores Park, made the cut at #2, Golden Gate Park wasn't even mentioned. Golden Gate Park! Where botanical gardens abound, two major museums of the Arts and Sciences await, playing fields and tennis courts run aplenty,, sit there...and buffaloes roam! Yes buffaloes!

This caused a major sensation at my workplace a week ago, as our office windows overlook the little slice of the Mission Bay Park, with its imported greenery wedged between a toxic inlet off the Bay and the industrial no man's land that is the outskirts of the UCSF Mission Bay Campus.

Hey California Home and Design, why don't you make lists about stuff you know, like all things domestic and inside of the home!
Jamie Lidell, From the Basement

Just started watching this amazing DVD of live performances, brought to audiophiles fresh from the hands of epic rock producer Nigel Godrich. The DVD, entitled"From the Basement," came out in March but is new to me. There are some particularly amazing performances by Radiohead, The White Stripes and Sonic Youth. But someone who really blew me away--this funk singer I had never heard of and probably wouldn't be interested in if I had--gave a highly impressive performance. Ladies and gentleman, Jamie Lidell: