Thursday, July 23, 2009

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

As you may know from my past notes, San Francisco city government is the ultimate nanny city government. But there is a reason why it isn't even worse. I always wondered why the Mayor and the Board of Stupidvisors weren't watching our every move all the time. At long last I have the answer.

NOTE: This past Saturday, there was a relatively serious collision between two of our Muni Railway trains (they're halfway between old-fashioned street cars and modern intercity rapid transit trains). Did our elected representatives at City Hall rush to the crash site to see if they were needed for a photo op? Nope. They immediately did what a good County Supervisor should do--they rushed to post on Facebook.

Now I thought that Facebook had already become old-fashioned, having been replaced in the hearts and minds of tech heads by YouTube and Twitter, but then I read a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. In a lightning-like move after the news flash about fifty injured passengers, Supervisor Bevan Dufty (no, I didn't make that name up) put the following up on Facebook: "Bevan Dufty is devastated by the tragic Muni accident in West Portal (that's where the underground emerges and becomes surface transportation). My thoughts are with those injured and their loved ones. This cannot be acceptable and I pledge to be part of the City's review to make sure it never happens again." It's a good thing he wasn't a city official in New York City on 9/11, or he'd still be in catatonic shock.

Thanks to Beth Spotswood of SF Gate, here are a few other gems from the Supervisors' various Facebook entries:

Eric Mar, District 1: Supervisor Mar's favorite movies are all boring political activism films until we get to the timeless classic, Mr Holland's Opus. He's into Jazz and Rage Against the Machine, and his favorite quotes include this from G Shock of Digital Underground: "You can't talk about funk without talking about the black revolution." His most recent mobile phone upload is a bowl of ramen. No mention of whether his therapist considers him dangerous to himself or others.

Michela Alioto-Pier, District 2: Since she is now running for California Commissioner of Insurance, her Facebook is fairly empty currently. There is a note about a Facebook group called "Build the Ramp," which has devoted itself to building the world's most expensive wheelchair ramp at City Hall, but not much else. Visitors might wonder if her last name represents the touristy family restaurant (Alioto's) on the Wharf, near Pier 39, but in actuality, it's her married name--she's an Alioto who married a Pier, and she wants everyone to know which political dynasty she comes from.

David Chiu, District 3: The only David Chiu immediately found was a famous poker player. The best Spotswood could come up with was a three-month old job posting looking for a legislative aide and a link to a Flickr page of really boring pictures.

Carmen Chu, District 4: A photo of our illustrious Mayor Gavin Newsom, and a link to an empty campaign website where she lists her gender as female. What a sexist!

Ross Mirkarimi, District 5: He's in "a relationship." There's a picture of his new baby. He is a fan of Paula Poundstone. Hates country music. Lists his employer as "The People of San Francisco" (now that's refreshing). And here's the best entry: He's a member of the Mrs. Robinson Society, a "movable social club and think tank for sophisticated, vibrant, fully evolved ladies of a certain ilk." No comment.

Chris Daly, District 6: Fan of Bruce Springsteen. Belongs to a group called "Public breastfeeding is not obscene." Lots of pictures of himself in his usual shabby garb, including a shot in a Frank Costanza shirt next to suit-clad former Supervisor Herrera and current Supervisor Chiu. Many photos of his City Hall rants, gesticulating wildly.

Sean Eisbernd, District 7: Most exciting entry is his "Which Character on Melrose Place Are You?" Spotswood comments "I want to see Sean join some sort of "I 'heart' Donnie Wahlberg" group and post wacky YouTube clips of animals acting like humans. This, after all, is the whole point of social networking."

Bevan Dufty, District 8: Besides having the vapors over Muni collisions, he effuses at his gym about "being back in love with TheReal World." He is a fan of Mr. S Leather, Skyy Vodka (which he amply demonstrates at sessions of the Board at City Hall), South Beach Dental, the San Francisco Wax Museum, the Midnight Sun, Colin Powell and Project Runway Seasons 1 - 5. As Spotswood says, "leave it to the gay guy . . . ."

David Campos, District 9: Announces that his followers should not send him messages on Facebook. Spotswood reports that she read that just after she sent him a message on Facebook (she lives in his district). He says that "English Bulldogs rock." He has pictures of himself looking like he can't really believe he's a Supervisor. He took a long time responding to Spotswood's request that she be added to his Facebook friends.

Sophie Maxwell, District 10: Apparently she is not familiar with the internet.

John Avalos, District 11: Fan of Mos Def, who he says is "suprisingly short." Also a fan of Godfather 1 and 2. Likes to wear bright dress shirts, and has lots of photos of rodeos. Anyone who loves the work of an inarticulate rap star, looks like he dresses for work in a dark closet, and loves himself some rodeo can't be all bad.

Spotswood sums it up: "Overall, our friends on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have some updating to do. Maybe I'll invite each of them to join the 39-member group, 'I've Fallen Victim to Gavin Newsom's Charm' and see who responds." As you may have guessed, I won't be one of them.

NOTE: The new Bay Bridge eastern span, originally promised to us for 2010, will be suffering another delay. The span, which is replacing the section badly damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, will be delayed until at least after Labor Day. The bridge is already scheduled for a partial closing on Labor Day while crews remove a 300 foot section of the bridge's eastern span and roll in a new piece. Currently, there is the odd sight of two spans stretching from Yerba Buena Island to the East Bay shore, one of them only partially complete.

The engineers re-routed the new section in order to avoid having to close the bridge entirely during construction. Since it is the major artery between San Francisco and Oakland/East Bay, there was never any real question of closing the bridge. The contractor causing this delay is a subcontractor of the very American sounding "American Bridge-Fluor." It manufactures steel monster structures--in Shanghai, China. But have no fear, an official of Caltrans and head of the state Transportation Commission is heading to China to fix this problem. As Randy Renschler, spokesman for the Commission, says "There's nothing like intimate, on-the-ground management to solve problems." Whew, I'm reassured now. Maybe they'll get the bridge finished by the next scheduled date in 2013, a mere 24 years after the earthquake, and probably just in time for the next shaker.

NOTE: Mark Morford of the Chronicle writes an article about the good old days of civilized correspondence as opposed to today's hate mail. He tells a charming story about his mother's habit of keep reading material in odd rooms of their summer lakehouse getaway in northern Idaho. This includes a collection of old Burma Shave sayings, an early version of jury-rigged roadside advertising. The fractured poetry was posted along side the roads of rural American on sequential signs, each containing a part of the message: "Does your husband . . . misbehave . . .grunt and grumble . . . rant and rave? . . .Shoot the brute . . . some . . . Burma Shave." I remember an improvised version on old Highway 99 in the Central Valley of California: "Made in the shade . . . stirred with a spade . . . best damned drink . . . that ever was made . . . Burma Shave." The columnist was surprised that a lady's group, even back then, couldn't see the humor and objected to a rhyme about ladies who are like porcupines. Morford says the modern equivalent is Burning Man, with sequential signs and much less mundane messages, more about sex and a few other things instead of male grooming.

But now Morford sees that media advertising, online publishing, and reader comments have become less civil, although he does admit that there were always people who would coarsen things. "I imagine that even in the Cro-Magnon caves, to the first disparaging grunt in response to a nice wall sketch of a bison, how deep into the archives of media history you can dig and find some sample of someone somewhere writing a letter to someone else telling them they loathe and disrespect everything they say and represent on this planet, and if said person ceased to exist or was somehow run over by a large tractor-like apparatus, the semi-articulate letter writer in question would positively cream in his Wranglers and shoot a shotgun into a pod of dolphins with joy, and call it America."

He continues: "But I do wonder if some sort of threshold is at hand, if some sort of burnout will soon occur and what the next phase will be, when the novelty of spineless anonymous commenting wears off and we reach saturation, if/when websites like this one discover some new mechanism to deliver similar amounts of traffic without wallowing in those same mud pits. For better or worse, there is no return to innocence of yore. But there might be a slow rediscovery of refinement, tact, the power of thoughtful and intelligent discourse. Shall we make bets?"

Help me out here, dear diary. Am I going nuts? Isn't this the same guy who wrote that God is gay, all Christians are homo-hating knuckle-draggers, Republicans are closet rump-ranger bigots, conservatives are secret axe-murderers and such-like? I'll have to review my past diary entries. But even if I'm wrong (which I'm not), aren't the comments he just made as offensive as anything he pretends to despise? It's obvious that what he really objects to is the fact that he writes some of the foulest, most bigoted and nonsensical trash in the history of western journalism, but is offended that people commenting on his articles might respond in kind. He believes he is entitled to a monoply on obscene nastiness. I'm with the neanderthals who give it right back to him in equally foul terms. I, of course, am of such a genteel nature that I would never join them.


Writer X said...

Nothing says I HEART YOU quite like seeing your photo in Facebook. On someone else's page. All of their facebook entries read like profiles on, but dumber.

Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - thanks for giving me a wake-up chortle. Random reactions - I actually know of another Bevan, who is a "she." I actually have a facebook page as a favor to a nephew, but I have never been back and have forgotten the password. I do, however, comment on this site and Breitbart . . . .AND I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night so aren't I the tech saavy one?

Mr. Holland's Opus stars that moron Duddy Kravitz so no wonder it gets a shout out. It did feature the first cameo role of the delightful "Petty Officer Jennifer Coates" from J.A.G., it's one redeeming quality.

As for Mark Murford I think his point is flame throwing only occurs when people disagree with him.

Mike Kriskey said...

'There is a note about a Facebook group called "Build the Ramp," which has devoted itself to building the world's most expensive wheelchair ramp at City Hall...'

Are they trying to get into the Guinness book?

I had the same reaction to that columnist you did, Lawhawk. How can someone type "cream in their Wranglers" while bemoaning coarseness?

Unknown said...

WriterX: If you had ever had to deal with the confederacy of dunces that we call our Board of Supervisors, you'd know why their Facebook entries sound like bad E-Harmony entries. These are very strange people.

AndrewPrice said...

Somehow it seems fitting that SF would abondon reality for Facebook. They could give up parties entirely and just run Facebook v. Myspace races. And if you don't like that, you could Twitter in some other social network.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Despite myself, I have to find some humor in all of this, or I'd spend all day crying. At times it feels like I'm living in a Kafka story. I like your idea--maybe I'll wander over to the local Holiday Inn Express and check out Facebook.

Andrew: If we could convince the Supes to spend all their time on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and E-Harmony, they would do a lot less damage.

Unknown said...

MikeKriskey: These people are obsessed with wheelchair access. A few years back, a beloved family deli which had been in business at Sixth and Market Streets for nearly seventy years was cited for not being easily wheel-chair accessible, even though it was at street level. Because of the nature of the bearing walls of the building, the owners completely revamped their entrance on Sixth Street, which also required considerable rearranging of the interior facilities. After God knows how much money spent, one "victim" complained that the entrance was "demeaning" because it was on Sixth Street instead of Market. The City then demanded that the family spend more money on another entrance on Market. The family threw in the towel, and closed the business. Later the Wendy's corporation took over the location, and with plenty of money and lawyers to handle it, they fought the City, and the wheelchair entrance is still on Sixth Street.

While City Hall was being repaired and retrofitted after the earthquake in '89, the Superior Courts had to move temporarily to an office building in the outer financial district. Shortly thereafter, somebody complained that there was no proper wheelchair access, not for the public, but for the judges! So the City spent untold thousands of dollars refitting all the entrances and putting ramps in each courtroom for the judges to reach their benches. Here's the catch. There was only one judge who required a wheelchair, and he hadn't complained. In fact, he said he was perfectly satisfied with the building the way it had been.

StanH said...

Well it all makes sense to me now Lawhawk, thanks : ) …Atlanta and SF have the same Board of Supervisors, …weird, huh? As far as eh…hmm… Mr. Morford what a nasty creep, it’s apparent this guy doesn’t appreciate return fire, …to bad!

Unknown said...

MikeKriskey: I neglected to mention that Morford writes two columns a week for the Chronicle/SF Gate. He provides me with a wealth of material. If you haven't had a chance to peruse some of my older Diaries, you might have some fun taking a look. What I quoted in this column is mild compared to some of his other insane ravings.

Unknown said...

StanH: From what you've been telling me over the past few months, if I ever decide to move to the South, I know of at least one town that won't be on my list. I'm looking for a change, not for more of the same. But at least I know I have one reader out there who knows I'm not making this stuff up. LOL

CrisD said...

High-larious high jinks on FB!!

Mr Hollands Opus!!!!

Paula Poundstone!!!

Comment: CrisD "likes" (snicker)

Unknown said...

CrisD: I didn't even include the whole quote about Mr. Holland's Opus. It finished: " . . . "Mr. Holland's Opus, which may, of course, be considered a boring political activism movie anyway." For some time now, I've referred to the estimable Paula as "Paula Poundsand."

Tennessee Jed said...

East Tennessee is pretty darned good, Hawk. Beautiful countryside and scenery, as red a state as you will find politically, cost of living is superb, Knoxville and Chattanooga are both pretty cool towns. Mostly midwesterners in my particular enclave, but Tennesseans are some of the nicest people I have ever run across. They take being "The Volunteer State" seriously. It is middle of the bible belt, but I have never found the folks to get in your face about it.

We are seeing more and more California refugees who are feeing utopia. OMG, what am I doing? I'm letting the secret out.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Your neck of the woods sound pretty enticing. As a midwesterner (by birth) and a left coaster (where I grew up) I qualify on two counts. I am definitely looking for a quieter life somewhere along the line. And your secret is safe with me. The last thing I would want is to be followed there by a bunch of San Franciscans and Angelenos.

San Francisco Relocation Committee said...

Can you provide us with directions to this Tennessee?

Unknown said...

San Francisco Relocation Committee: I have sworn an oath never to reveal the information you have requested. Since I take oaths very seriously, I expect you to make a substantial offer if you expect anything further from me. LOL

StanH said...

Jed has bumped his head (no offense Jed : ) …there’s nothing but toothless hillbillies in the Southeast, if you’ve seen “Deliverance” well those are my neighbors you know, “squeal like a pig.”

AndrewPrice said...

That's "squeal like an H1N1" Stan.

StanH said...

Andrew, I stand corrected. LOL!

Unknown said...

Andrew: Has anybody told you that you have a really purdy mouth?

Cue the banjos.

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