Monday, January 31, 2011

‘It has always seemed strange to me,’ said Doc. ‘The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism, and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.’

~ John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.
Exodus 22:21

Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.
Exodus 23:9

Arizon SB 1070

Israeli West Bank Barrier


Sunday, July 18, 2010

annoying things

i am sick of seeing obama stickers. hasn't the hype died down yet? i recognized the symbolic significance of obama being the first black president but what does that even mean in a tangible sense for oppressed people of color? people are obsessed because he isn't bush. but he is still just a president, still human, still part of the status-quo, with finite power in a government of checks and balances and corporate interest, he still has troops at war, he is just a dude. so people get over it already and take those dumb stickers off your toyota prius. instead of being for a person be for a cause and then work for it. "change" doesn't start at the top it comes from the bottom. it is the grassroots actions and organizing of common people that bring change. who cares that you voted or who you voted for, what matters is that if you have a problem you try to fix it. you can't put much faith in a politician, in theory they are our representatives so you got to let them know whats up, you can't just expect them to have all the answers.

This is a two part both related to the day the oscar grant verdict was released. while listening to people speak at the rally there were at least two dudes walking around hustlin their marxist papers or whatever they were. that is just rude. there are people talking about serious stuff, the event is about a person that was killed, it is not an appropriate time to be pushing your agenda. if your at the anarchist book fare or some kind of conference okay, distribute your leaflets that is a time to spread info. but at an event like the oscar grant rally if its not directly related to the issue leave it at home, listen to what the speakers are saying cause it is their time. secondly the media hypes things. most people in oakland didn't want a riot, even if they wanted one it wasn't going to happen with 3,000 cops downtown. yeah a few "anarchists" broke some windows and tagged some walls, and maybe some kids got some free shoes and lit stuff on fire taking advantage of the night to run wild, but that was not everyone and that was not the reason people gathered on the day of the verdict. i mean what kind of person vandalizes gold teeth master? of course that is what newspapers focus on and label a "riot." what they don't really talk about is the passionate things people in oakland shared that day to the crowds. some of the people that spoke included members of grant's family, bobby hutton's mom, and mark curry. if the media hadn't prophesied the violence maybe more oakland residents would have come out instead of staying home in fear of downtown and the positive side would have been shown even more. i do not get too easily moved by things but some of what people said almost brought tears to my eyes and gave me reasons to love oakland more. postive words about unity were spoken in contrast to the few vandals that the newspaper highlights with cover photos that people around the country and in the suburbs will look at think "oh those crazy people in oakland are just violent and destructive." But as one dreadlock sporting resident of east oakland said (in my blurred memory paraphrase) "they go after us cause we look the same. we aren't hyphy, we don't go dumb, were the egyptians who built the pyramids."

at work i usually hear spanish radio, top 40, some funk and soul, and hip-hop radio. the radio is already bad enough but hip-hop, or should i say pop-hop radio is even worse. they play about fifteen songs over and over all of which have annoying catchy hooks, auto-tune voices, and/or sexual innuendo that sounds like it was written by an adolescent boy with no sense of poetic style and enough hormones for two people. the other morning i woke up with a lady gaga song stuck in my head, curse you radio!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sit-Lie Law, Skateboarding, and other Rants

A month or so ago the San Francisco city council voted 8-3 against the Mayor’s sit-lie ordinance, which now in lieu of the defeat he will bring the proposed law to the November ballot for the voters to decide its fate. According to some reports the whole thing was partially started when Newsom moved from the safe, affluent neighborhood of Russian Hill to the culturally rich Upper Haight where he witnessed a man smoking crack while walking with his eight year old daughter. Is this the first time he has seen this or something? Is this some kind of shock, and are we supposed to feel bad for others that feel uncomfortable watching someone whose life is being ruined by addiction? Or maybe we should feel bad for the person smoking the crack. Instead the mayor seems to think it is better to make life harder for such lowly denizens, transients, and delinquents. Even though I am still not quite sure what Newsom’s story has to do with enforcing a law that prevents people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks from 7am-11pm. Maybe he would just rather have the man be in the park, which is excluded in the law, so he doesn’t have to witness the drug use in his new neighborhood, I mean as they say “out of sight out of mind.”

What really shocked me about this, and helped inspire this blog post, was to find out that a major supporter of this bill comes from a participant in the local skate community: Kent Uyehara, the owner of FTC skateshop on Haight, a company that ironically claims to have “products born from the heart and soul of the streets.” I expect such a law to come from Newsom but I do not expect it to come from the skate community, a culture I see as sharing roots with the street culture of Haight-Ashbury. I do not know this Kent fellow, and he may be a nice guy, but I am still perplexed. And as a business owner he may have valid arguments that I am not aware of, but it is hard to see this law as a way of solving much. When the store opened its shop on Haight street in 1994 didn’t they know that a street youth culture already existed there? Wasn’t that probably why they wanted to open their shop on Haight street to try and ride the counter-cultural wave and sell a certain image that San Francisco helped to create and that goes together with skate culture like peaches and cream. I mean they didn’t open their shop in Nob Hill. The FTC website says itself that they were “there for the whole ride attracting and nurturing talented outsiders, misfits, and artists…” Outsiders and misfits sound like similar titles that could be used in rhetoric used by the sit lie proponents. In the words of Tara “For the City (which is what FTC stands for), more like For the Cash.” Perhaps Wu Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. is coming to life in the middle class, instead of using gats they use laws to get that “dolla dolla bill y’all.”

Basically the sit-lie law just seems unnecessary. Smoking crack is still illegal no matter where you are, blocking sidewalks is still illegal, and as far as noise I am sure that you can probably go to the police about that too but come on San Francisco is a city for crying out loud, and a very dense one, it is going to be noisy. If shop owners don’t want people congregating outside their storefronts they can politely ask them to leave and I am sure a lot of them would be nice enough to move. Although in saying that I do not want to assume that all store owners treat street people like dirt and all street people are saints, I know that is not always the case. And maybe I am just na├»ve but I like to think if you treat someone like a valued human they will treat you in the same way.

One USA Today article claimed that according to Newsome the issue isn’t about homelessness and he is not criminalizing the poor. The article goes on to say “on any given night, San Francisco's homeless shelters have more than 100 empty beds, he says. The city has kept its shelters open 24 hours and even accommodates dogs.” First off, a shelter is not a home, and secondly these facts do not mean there are not individuals wanting to sleep in these bed. These beds may be empty because of the Mayor’s Care Not Cash program that reduces individuals General Assistance income and instead gives them “housing” vouchers. When housing is not available an individual is given a bed at a shelter for up to 45 days, even if they don’t show up, which means often beds are left empty. The statistic may also reflect the shelter reservation computer system. To reserve a bed in a shelter you must go to a drop in center and access the CHANGES computer system, a system full of kinks and bugs that sometimes show less available beds than there are. And as far as 24 hour shelters, I have never heard of one. Usually you have to get to the shelter at a certain time and then be out by a certain time in the morning. I do not think there are even any 24 hour drop in centers anymore.

Basically I am a bit fed up with San Francisco. It continues to appear to me as a city that is preoccupied with having a progressive image but has no action. A city that can talk but can’t walk its talk. Whether you are the mayor wanting a good political image but doing nothing for the city, an anarchist discussing revolution over a cup of coffee while never reaching outside his/her own subculture community, a rich suburban kid pretending to be poor but never understanding what poverty means, or Haight street landlords who want the hippy culture of Haight street without the hippies like the Hot Topic on Telegraph that I see as representing a capitalistic raid on a counter-culture of yesterday, which ironically tries to sell that culture as a product. Let’s not let San Francisco lose its backbone. Let it not lose its reputation as a home to travelers, a sanctuary for immigrants, a safe haven for ideas, or a place where progress can really happen from the SF State Riots for an ethnic studies program (now the first and only College of Ethnic Studies in the US), to the Black Panthers distributing their paper out of the Fillmore and creating social programs that other organizations continue to model today. Don’t let the City be a place that puts convenience, wealth, and image before humans and positive change. So before putting time, money, and effort in to these laws think about what the priorities are and what are alternatives that respect and bring positive results for everyone.

Friday, June 4, 2010

for awhile i have held to the idea that bikes can change the world, and while sounding dramatic i think this video is proof of bikes being a productive medium of change.

Scrapertown from California is a place. on Vimeo.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory." ~ Howard Zinn