Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
North Beach Crazy
I stood at the corner
waiting for the light to change.
Head pointing toward the sky,
a month's worth of clouds formed
and diminished before my eyes.
The Transamerica pyramid to the left of me,
the old Transamerica building to the right.
Two beautiful smiling girls stood at the entrance
of what is now the Church of Scientology.
One of sunny blond hair;
the other pale and of dark brown.
Black sweaters and white collars
and all kinds of crazy behind those smiles.
I walk towards the dim sum restaurant
and wonder if they eat dim sum too.
Black sweaters white collars gotta eat.
Gotta mail letters and water their lawn.
Black sweaters white collars gotta brush their teeth,
watch the news or turn it off.
Do they smile at the DMV,
or when they do their taxes?
Will they smile in a mass suicide
when their god tells them:
this is The End.
Beatniks once charged down this street;
later hippies and yuppies too.
But now I am on this street
among the power hungry,
like my Barbary Coast-dwelling ancestors.
But now I fear Volcano God worshipers
in black sweaters and white collars.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Franks to a woman who has drawn a Hitler mustache on a picture of Obama: "It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this sort of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.”
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Let the right one(s) in
I never thought of myself as even having the slightest inclination towards Libertarian thought. I mean, I don't get all crazy nervous about "Big Government" taking over, I don't think that the Constitution is meant to be interpreted as literally as the Neocons interpret the Old Testament, I don't believe in social Darwinism, I Hate the NRA, I hate the concept of laissez faire economics and an extremely free market, and I would never evangelize my beliefs by passing out fliers about Lyndon LaRouche while singing folks songs in the faces of commuters throughout the greater DC metropolitan area (I've witnessed this; his minions are ruthless).
However...the Cato Institute, a major Libertarian think tank, just came out with a study concluding that legalizing illegal immigrants can actually help the US economy--significantly--and I think it just may be the most logical argument f0r reforming national immigration policy that I've ever seen.
The report, entitled "Restriction or Legalization? Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform," claims that by filling up low-skilled positions by paying low wages (i.e. slave wages, I know, gross but true) that more high-level positions will be made available by means of a competition upswing. If this doesn't make sense, think of this historical example (according to the report):
"The influx of low-skilled immigrants during the `Great Migration' of the early 20th century induced native-born U.S. residents by the millions to complete their education and enhance their skills. The greater competition to fill low-skilled jobs helped to spur a sharp increase in high-school graduation rates from 1910 to 1930, a phenomenon known to educational historians as the `High School Movement.' In this way, low-skilled immigrants chased native-born workers up the occupational ladder. A greater inflow of legalized workers today would have the same beneficial, long-term effect on U.S. households."
And here's a great snippet of a new book by Jason L. Riley, who serves on the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal of all places--his findings back Cato's claim completely:
But alas my friends, I do realize that the idea of making illegals legal is as likely as getting a single payer health care system. I mean, it's sound policy based in logic and reason. And this is America. Sigh.
Friday, August 07, 2009
R.I.P. John Hughes, R.I.P. the '80s
Out of all the celebrity deaths that have ensued over the past year, I can't think of any more deserving of the saying: "You don't know what you've got til it's gone."
The number of films since John Hughes ended his screenwriting career that have been directly influenced by, and/or blatantly ripped off from him is staggering. But to say that no one has matched Hughes' ability to capture a generation of teen angst on film is a fact; not an opinion. With many of the movies that he has spawned, sexual exploits and gross-out humor seem to overwhelm (American Pie, Cruel Intentions, Superbad, etc). To me it just appears that everyone's trying to out-do the Farrelly Brothers or Judd Apatow, year after year. It's exhausting. And what we're left with is a decades-long legacy of teensploitation in lieu of any truly insightful narrative of the (teenage) human condition.
I saw The Breakfast Club last summer, in the park on a massive, inflatable drive-in theater-sized screen. I hadn't seen it in nearly 15 years, and it brought back so many memories. It was the first time that I realized, as an adult, just how brilliant and insightful John Hughes actually was as a storyteller. Hundreds of people were cheering and shouting lines along with the actors, whose voices carried across 10-ft speakers placed all over Dolores Park. It was as if we'd all shown up for a rock show, and these characters were the main attraction. It made me realize that Hughes' "brain children" must have truly resonated in the minds of so many people of my generation, and over a substantial period of time.
I was trying to think of reasons why his movies were so influential, and will remain classics for my generation, when I found this article in the NYT. Writer A.O. Scott just nailed it:
"...it’s a little eerie that Mr. Hughes died so soon after Michael Jackson, another fixture of ’80s popular culture locked in perpetual youth.
Their deaths make me feel old, but more than that, they make me aware of belonging to a generation that has yet to figure out adulthood, for whom life can feel like a long John Hughes movie. You know the one. That Spandau Ballet song is playing at the big dance. You remember the lyrics, even if it’s been years since you heard them last. This is the sound of my soul. I bought a ticket to the world, but now I’ve come back again. Why do I find it hard to write the next line?"
The documentary (trailer below), Don't You Forget About Me, about Hughes and his impact on the industry, hasn't been released yet. But I'm sure there are growing legions of fans now anticipating it. Hughes, you will surely be missed.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Health care, Blue Dogs and Prostitution
Hearing about all the quid pro quo going on between Congress and health care industry lobbyists leaves vile images in my head: crusty old white men giving other crusty old white men hand jobs and lap dances. As the struggling working class and poverty-striken battle each day to simply live their lives with dignity, all that our legislators can do is prostitute themselves.
Olbermann concurs (sitting in a darkened cave in a black turtleneck and holding a human skull; addressing the audience in his best Olivier-as-Hamlet delivery):
You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.
If you will behave as if you are Republicans -- as if you are the prostitutes of our system --you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs!
Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril.
Because, Congressman Ross, you are not the Representative from Blue Cross. And Mr. Baucus, you are not the Senator from Schering-Plough Global Health Care even if they have already given you $76,000 towards your re-election. And Ms. Lincoln, you are not the Senator from DaVita Dialysis.Because, ladies and gentlemen, President Lincoln did not promise that this nation shall have a new death of freedom, and that government of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation, shall not perish from this earth.
That is all.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Talkin' bout my generation
A few weeks back, the WaPo profiled a "Generational Consultant" named Anne Loehr. Loehr, who is in her mid-40s and spent an entire decade in the '90s running a hotel in Kenya, claims to know how to speak the jive (i.e. she's "hip to that" and she's way "off the chain") among the young people of Generations X and Y. And she tells banking execs how to relate to younger clients, "enlightening" them on age-appropriate slang (the article claims that she actually got one of her advisees to use the terms "sucks" and "cool" more often when speaking to a particularly youthful client). The Gawker post rightly dubbed this woman as having the "fakest job in America."
Here's a breakdown of Loehr's cheat sheet, according to WaPo:
"Generation Y" (born 1981-2001):
Life-Shaping Events: 9/11, Reality TV, AIDS, Internet boom/bust, Safety laws.
Traits: Authentically confident, Well-educated, Tolerant and diverse, community-focused, Tech-savvy, Socially, politically and eco-conscious.
"Generation X" (born 1965-1980):
Life-Shaping Events: Stagflation, Gulf War, High divorce rates, Women working, MTV.
Traits: Pragmatic, Self-sufficient, Skeptical, Flexible, Individualistic, "Me" Generation, Distrust authority.
"Baby Boomers" (born: 1946-1964):
Life-Shaping Events: Man on the Moon, Vietnam War, Free love.
Traits: Idealistic, "Break the rules," Time-stressed, Politically correct, Causes, Making a difference, Consensus-driven.
"Traditionalists" (born: 1922-1945):
Life-Shaping Events: World War II, Depression, FDR Era.
Traits: Conservative, Disciplined, Respect authority, Loyal, Patriotic, Risk-averse, Trust the system
Since I was born in 1979, apparently my entire world was rocked by stagflation. Because I totally know what that is you guys, and it pains me deeply--it haunts my dreams, and makes me depressed, like, all the time. And "Me" Generation? Excuse me but the last time I checked, that label was ascribed to the Boomers. And what does that even mean, anyways? As if any generation accustomed to a healthy GDP, substantial suburban growth etc wouldn't indulge and become more "me" focused?!
Oh, and I like how the "Y"ers have five major "life-shaping events,"one of which is "safety laws." Whereas the Boomers are marked by three simple things: "man on the moon," "Vietnam war," and "free love." Because, you know, civil rights movements didn't affect anyone back then or even now. Even for the "Y"s, gay rights don't bear any kind of significance on anyone's life and how they view the world around them.
'Well,' you say, 'if you're so smart why don't make up your own list?' You know why I don't make up my own list? You wanna know why? Because this is a load of bullshit--this is like astrology for money-grubbing bankers and other vile, treacherous vermin. What angers me the most is that this woman is making a killing with this "job" of hers; she is influencing the minds of many; and she is being profiled by the WaPo with a 1,500 word fluff piece honoring her work. It makes me physically ill.
Then again, I think what really angers me most is, out of all the myriad signifiers that could have marked a collective generational arch, art and culture were not looked upon as significant means of identification. When I think of generational identity, the first thing I think about is culture: music, film, literature, et al. What was embraced, what was not; who were the visionaries that left enduring legacies. I don't think to bust out an American history textbook from the sixth grade and make bullet points for current affairs. And the "traits" bits are so painfully vague, so disgustingly cliche...how is this woman employed, in this economy, again?
The WaPo completely missed the real story: how are people like this in business? Is there a hidden market catering to banker fatcats with stimulus money to burn? If they would only try to answer that question, they'd have a much larger readership. Instead, they've become a target for the gawking. Yet another MSM tragedy and bellwether media group showing signs of self-destruction.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Facebook is the devil
It's no secret to my friends and acquaintances that I spend a fair share of time on the facebooks. But what they don't know is that, in between posting moronic quizzes like, "Who is your hip hop husband?" or "What is your robot name?" or even as I write status updates about what I've eaten, or how I could live in sweatpants, I am really dying inside. Well, maybe just a little.
Lately I feel it's become more of a sadistic endeavor than a lighthearted means of "socializing." For instance, I have to stop myself from peeking at the profile of any guy that I have been dating or intend to date because, more often than not, there will be some ballsy girl marking her territory, making date plans via a public forum. Or there will be some pictures that I care not to see. Like, for instance, when I was dating someone a year ago. We had been seeing each other for nearly four months (a big deal for Singles Capital of the World standards here in SF), and I was really excited about him. So one day, I have a friend over, and she wants to see his picture. So I look to his page, and, lo and behold, there he is being straddled by this girl "friend" of his, with her tongue down his throat (they were surrounded by a crowd of onlookers; obviously very drunk). To add insult to injury, when I confronted him about it, he was shocked that I didn't just laugh it off. After all, he said, "she's married to my best friend! And I was the preacher who married them!" In his eyes, my bad. Only in San Francisco, right?
But recently, as much as I am glad to see my exes happy and in love, I really don't need to see pictures of them every time I log onto the sight. Specifically, there's the case of ______ who I haven't been with in about five years. Long story short, we had an intense international love affair, and he broke my heart. I'll never forget one of our final fights, right before he dumped me. He was invited to go to St. Tropez with some buddies, and I threw a fit over it. I imagined it to be like Lake Havasu, only with supermodels and billionaires. I wouldn't have put up a fuss except for the fact that I was strictly not invited. This was to be a "lad's trip" (he was British). And I know what young Englishmen do on vacation--I've seen it firsthand--they toss away their cultural oppression and let their proverbial hair down, female commitments/significant others be damned. So I was not cool with that, and I had to, at the very least, try to get him to invite me. In the end, he never took the trip, but he did dump me just a month later.
So recently I have noticed that, every time I look to the upper right hand corner of the home screen to view the "highlights" section, there's ______ in St. Tropez, up at the very top in a revolving set of pictures from somebody's album. But that's not all! He's posing with his girlfriend of a few years, a stunning half-Japanese theater actress with a fondness for wearing blouses with necklines that are mere slits dropping down and falling well below her "girls." These pictures have been popping up for the last two weeks. One day, there they are, slow dancing to a jazz band beneath a festival lighted canopy. And on another day, there they are, sipping martinis on a yacht. Or another, lying poolside, looking deep into each other's eyes.
I feel that I have reached the age where I can see the cosmic pranks going on in my life and give a hearty laugh--this, however, is ridiculous.
But today I was mentioning the "hilarity" of this whole situation to someone, and my friend on the phone actually had an f'book story to top it. Instead of her upper right hand corner being filled with exes and their significant others, it was filled with friend suggestions. And one of the most common suggestions that pops up: a friend that had died more than a year ago. Fortunately, my friend has a healthy attitude towards this, and sees the absurdity for what it is.
So apparently, once you've shuffled off this mortal coil, your facebook account lives on! Desperately seeking new facebook friends! This creeps me out a lot you guys. I mean, I can only imagine how bizarre it must be if one were to look up an old high school pal, request their friendship, and, as time goes by and they have not accepted your request, start to think "what an asshole!" So then, you start to ask around, "Hey, what ever happened to _____?" Eventually someone breaks it to you: "Oh _____, yeah, she died like three years ago!"
It's like a creepy ending to a ghost story or something. Only it's real life, brought to you by facebook. I've said it once, I'll say it again: facebook is the devil.