Archive for January, 2009

Dept. of Weinershnitzel: SFPD’s sensitivity training is silly

weiner.gifLocal comedian Michael Weiner, who broadcasts nationally as a right-wing foamer called “Michael Savage,” is back at the well, making fun of local customs for the amusement of the auslanders. Now it’s the standard sensitivity training classes for police detectives, classes designed to teach the sherlocks about our more colorful residents. According to Weiner:

The San Francisco Police Department is forcing detectives to undergo brainwashing by a transgendered detective… I would not let myself be brainwashed by this freak.

This sad little man, who is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to spew this shit over the radio, loves that kind of talk, because his demented listeners love it even more. All I can say is, I hope he spends some of his huge salary locally, because that’s all the benefit we’ll ever get out of the fact that he actually works here.

Local demagogue finds new way to offend people

YBCA to Host Benefit for GroundSpark Educational Campaign "Straightlaced"

Next Wednesday night, GroundSpark — a nonprofit that creates film-based education campaigns to raise awareness about social issues in schools and communities — is holding a benefit to launch the latest phase of their ongoing Respect for All Project with a screening of the new film and reception afterwards at the YBCA’s Novella Theater.

The new film and educational program is called Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, and it’s about the extraordinary pressure to conform to gender stereotypes — and the pressure to accept anti-gay attitudes — that teens face from their peers and guardians. Sounds like a downer? Actually, it isn’t even remotely depressing. I went into this film with the fear it would consist solely of tragedies — yet another closeted teen driven to suicide, yet another horrible beating of another — but while Straightlaced takes the time to directly discuss one such tragedy, the film stays positive throughout.

In fact, I’m certain that the program will be a huge success largely because the documentary is so inclusive and upbeat. It features about fifty extremely intelligent and well-spoken teens, who speak out about their relationship to gender roles and homophobia in our society: that is, how they feel pressured to conform to certain notions of masculinity or femininity, to conform to certain notions of what sexual behaviors are appropriate for them, and how they accept or resist these pressures. Some hide, and others — often, wonderfully — flaunt their true selves.

Unlike other films about gender issues among youth, which tend to focus on teens who identify as LGBT, this film includes interviews with teens who identify all across the gender spectrum. There is at least one individual in the film for any viewer to identify with. The most remarkable thing to me is how self-possessed and seemingly unconflicted these teens are. Perhaps the greatest thing about this documentary is the way it provides dozens of models of self-acceptance and healthy attitudes towards the ways others express themselves in behavior and dress. It makes some pretty basic points — everybody deserves respect (including you), “gay” is not an insult, and your sexuality and sex life are your own — but for kids still enduring the soul-crushing absurdity of high school social life, where wearing the wrong garment too often can get you permanently ostracized, it can only be good to have a film making these points so forcefully.

As with GroundSpark’s other programs, the film is intended as a starting point to foment discussion in classrooms and community meeting places, and it will be provided to educators and activists with a packet of print materials. The proceeds from the benefit will go to launch this campaign and get these materials out into the hands of educators and activists.

The benefit will be held on Wednesday, Jan 14th at 6:00. Tickets are $40 for General Admission and $175 for VIP Sponsor, which includes a reception. Tickets and more information are available at this page.

Honest but pathetic drunk attempts to make amends

Here’s an early contender for Missed Connections post of the week:

To the taxi driver that I didn’t pay on Tuesday night — very sorry

Very, very sorry about not paying you after you drove me. I had lost my wallet and, as you know, was too drunk to function. Once I went inside to find you some money, I passed out. I feel really bad about not paying you, so if you see this, please contact me and I will get you what I owe you. Be sure to mention where you took me, so I know that it’s really you.

Again, very sorry.

If that was her Tuesday night, I wonder what her New Year’s Eve was like.

Tonight at the Castro: ‘Touch of Evil’

One of the landmarks of American cinema, Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) plays tonight at the Castro Theatre at 7:00 pm.

Justly celebrated for the ways it combines the ridiculous — Welles’ grotesquely rotund figure, Charlton Heston in dark makeup as a Mexican detective, and Dennis Weaver’s bugging-out night shift motel manager — with the sublime — Welles’ direction, including the famous three and a half minute long opening tracking shot running under the titles — the film inspired a generation of filmmakers by making great cinema on a tiny budget and a two-bit script.

The opening tracking shot itself is a cultural reference point — remember Robert Altman’s homage in “The Player” even as the characters themselves refer to it? (“He set up the whole picture with that one tracking shot… My father was key grip on that shoot.”) But the whole film is stuffed full of delights: Heston in brownface exclaiming about an explosion on the border, “This could be very bad for us… for Mexico!” Janet Leigh as his wife, menaced by a drug-dealing biker gang. Marlene Dietrich as the faded proprietess of a bordertown speakeasy. Weaver frantically protesting, “I’m the night man!!” And Welles himself, grumbling, shuffling, sneering, waddling his way through the film. This is a great chance to see it on the big screen.

Touch of Evil plays at 7:00 pm at the Castro; the tone companion Wait Until Dark plays at 4:50 and 9:10.

iPhone-carrying MacWorld geeks overload AT&T’s network

According to a post on ZDNet’s Apple Core blog, so many people attending the MacWorld conference in San Francisco this week are using the highly touted cloud data-driven features of Apple’s iPhone that it’s almost impossible to access AT&T’s 3G network.

Phone calls are hit or miss… About half of my calls don’t connect, fail in the middle or otherwise have weird silent dropouts throughout the call… Data connections on AT&T are brutally slow… I thought SF was supposed to be wired?

Maybe it’s just as well Apple is dropping out of the show next year. With attendance this year already down, it should really fall off when the main vendor doesn’t show up — if the conference happens at all. So maybe next January there’ll be no problem at all making pizza orders on your iPhone.

Apple to (Finally) Allow Music Without Copy Protection & With Variable Pricing

In a not-entirely-unexpected move, Apple announced at Macworld yesterday that, starting this week, it would remove DRM restrictions from all of the songs in the iTunes store and allow the record companies to set variable prices for them.

It’s a change that Apple has long sought, but three of the major music labels (Sony, Universal and Warner) have blocked contract negotiations up to this point.

To get this concession from those labels, Apple agreed to allow variable pricing for tracks. This was a change that Apple has never wanted to implement: their position was that a uniform price was better for consumers. But now there appear to be three price points: obscure back-catalogue tracks will cost 69 cents, moderately popular back-catalogue tracks will cost 99 cents, and new hit songs will cost $1.29.

Reportedly, the massive slowing of both CD and digital music sales over the past year was the impetus for these negotiations.

What about all those songs you bought off the iTunes store in the past? Apple announced a much less consumer-friendly option: pay a whopping 30 cents per track or 30% of the album price to strip the copy protection from it — in other words, you will now have to pay a premium in order to have the unfettered use of your music that should have been included in the original price. Is this another concession to the labels?

A story with more detail appeared here on the New York Times yesterday.

Stacey’s Books to close

This is a huge oh-no: according to SFist, Stacey’s Bookstore, a bastion of downtown time-wasting, browsing and expense account padding, will close in March.

Anybody’s who’s ever worked downtown has spent hours in the store, taking long lunches, avoiding going back to work, or searching for a technical manual or last-minute anniversary present. The 10,000+ square foot store has been an anchor of Lower Market for over 75 years. But now? Toast.

BART police shooting caught on video

I’m out of the country at the moment, but this crossed my path and I thought it was worth passing on. The following is quoted from this post by Jacob Appelbaum:

It appears that police in Oakland shot and killed a man on New Years Eve. He was apparently involved in a fight on BART but this is unclear as things quickly spiraled out of control. The police pulled him and several other people off of the train.

There was an SF Gate story on the incident. The story (for those who aren’t reading the link) details what the witnesses saw. In short, a man was shot and it was said he was shot in the back, while on the ground. The comments on the story are horrible, most of them directly side with the police and suggest that all of the witnesses were lying. Some of the comments are simply racist and many suggest this is what you get for having a fight in public. While I certainly found it doubtful that the police would murder someone or even shoot them in the back (especially in such a crowd) it’s pretty clear that this is what happened.

At least two people took videos of the shooting and one of them had a direct line of sight. You can clearly see that the victim is talking to the police. He raises his hands as any reasonable person would, especially when dealing with the police. This is I would expect someone to comply, to show that they don’t have a weapon and that they mean no harm. The police put him on his stomach. This was with multiple police officers handling him.

He was reported to have begged to not be tasered. Supposedly he said that he had a four year old daughter right before he was put on the ground. The police officer in the video is clearly not at risk of any serious violence. Another police officer was holding the victim down. He had time to think and his response was to pull his gun, stand up, wait, aim and then he fired a shot directly into his back.

Unfucking believable.

Time to send that cop to prison where he belongs. He undermines any reasonable authority we give to the police. He and police like him are the reason that I have very little faith in any authority. I feel for the family of the young man who was murdered. I hope they sue the shit out of the police and they take that cop down like the pig that he is.

Here’s a link to the video.

Interview: novelist Nami Mun

In Nami Mun’s debut novel Miles from Nowhere, the protagonist Joon is a Korean-American Justine, forever suffering pain and injuries at the hands of family, friends, lovers and strangers. Everything she touches turns to dust: when she feeds a starving mutt, she inadvertently kills it by feeding it fried chicken, the bones of which pierce its intestines. She survives — barely — a teen shelter, drug addiction, an abusive family, and faithless boyfriends, before finally cleaning up and moving on.

The book is set in New York and Mun now lives in Chicago. But she graduated from UC Berkeley and was a member of an East Bay writers group for some time, so that makes her a home girl here. She’s on a book tour and will appear Wednesday at 6:00 pm at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building. After the jump, she answers some questions I put to her through her publicist.

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