Life goes on

So last night I worked late. I headed home anxiously looking forward to kicking my shoes off and relaxing. 

In the elevator of my building I smelled smoke. Faintly, just enough for me to wonder who burned dinner.

When I got into my apartment I could really smell smoke, and could faintly hear a smoke alarm thru the walls. I got concerned then. 

After wandering the halls for a bit, I went upstairs and find the halls filled with smoke, and I could hear smoke alarms from the apartment directly above mine and next door to that one. About the time I was noticing this I encountered security guards hunting for the smoke and sent them that way. I then grabbed my bag and cleared out, not wanting to be in the way of professionals. 

As I walked away from the building, fire engines and hook-&-ladder trucks started converging on it. I walked to a bar a few blocks away, ordered a beer, and settled in to wait. I filled in the bartender and some friends on the situation, and tried not to think of the idea that I might be suddenly homeless. I became painfully aware of the renter’s insurance that I had allowed to lapse thru poor budgeting. 

After my second beer I went to find out what had happened. The bartender advised me to come back if my building head burned down, he’d give me a couple free drinks to help cope.

In hindsight, I under-tipped him.

The building was fine. My upstairs neighbor had left a pot on the stove. I’ll add that to the crimes of late-night stomping and dropping condoms out the window that they are already guilty of in my mind. This morning I could still smell the smoke, but I kept the windows open until I left and I think it’s mostly cleared by now.

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that things can go very wrong very fast. I’m going to renew my renter’s insurance, because at $200 a year it’s frankly a bargain compared to suddenly having everything I own burn up because some dipshit never learned not to leave a stove unattended. I mean, I can’t actually stop my things from burning, but I can get compensated for them so I can rebuild if something like that happens. 

Three other lesson here is that you should never ever leave hot things unattended unless they are specifically designed to deal with that. Which is pretty much crock pots and the specialized ovens we use at work, in my experience. I’m sure there are other things, but seriously if you aren’t sure, don’t leave it alone. Fire can go from no big deal to a major catastrophe in less than a minute, so be careful with it!

In other news, you are probably already aware that I like to have a Bloody Mary on a weekend morning. Today I decided to try the Vesuvio Cafe in North Beach, which makes a big deal of the fact that Kerouac used to frequent it. I’m am definitely impressed by the atmosphere, its an awesome and comfortable place to hang out, but I’m also stunned (almost literally!) by how strong the drinks are. I usually think of a Bloody Mary as a tomato beverage with a little  vodka in it, but this is a vodka drink with tomato juice for color. Damn. 

There are many, many other things that I want to write about, but I have people to meet and things to do, so they’ll have to wait. In the meantime, take care of yourselves, make sure the important insurance is paid up. And always watch while the bartender makes your drink. 

Morning Raindrops

This morning I’m sitting in a historic gay bar, sipping a Bloody Mary and watching the weather waffle over whether to rain or not. I’m trying to figure out what mix of breeds the dog that just walked by is. Maybe corgi and golden retriever? Adorable dog, short legs, fluffy golden coat. The kind of dog you desperately want to hug, who will probably let you even though dogs don’t really like or understand hugs.
Overall, I’ve had far, far worse Saturday mornings.
But the reason I’m writing this is that I can see a tour group forming in the plaza across Castro street. City Guides offers free tours all over the city, and I highly recommend them for anyone who has an interest in history.
I’ve taken that particular tour before, a lovely trek through Castro neighborhood history, with a sizable chunk of gay rights history. At this point I’ve given you enough information to figure out which bar I’m sitting in, although the number of bars open this early, even on a Saturday, is probably small so it’s not as big a challenge as it first seems.
Anyway, City Guides gives a time and location for the start of each tour and their FAQ entry on how to recognize the guide includes this phrase, “If you don’t see the badge, just look for someone at the appointed place who seems ready to lead a tour.”
I love that phrase.
In context, it totally works. You go to the right place at the right time, and you’ll see someone standing around, slightly awkwardly, holding a clipboard while looking around at people to see who’s looking for them and gather the group. But as a standalone phrase, it really fires of my imagination. I can picture someone just hanging out, and a group of people deciding that this person “seems ready to lead a tour.” In the movie of my mind, the ersatz tour guide plays along and leads them around the area telling stories and giving as much history as possible from memory, resulting in a colorful, if apocryphal, experience for the hapless group.
I’ll admit this post is light on substance, but I so loved and wanted to share the mental image of that tour group; wandering around and gradually realizing that they hadn’t found the proper guide and were just following some random passerby, and that they were enjoying themselves enough to be OK with that.
Have a wonderful Saturday, everybody. I hope all of your adventures are instructive and enjoyable, even if they weren’t what you had planned.

Big bags of Dice

I Kicked a D-Bag

Okay, so after two months of silence I’m posting what’s little more than an advertisement. What can I say, I’m a jerk sometimes. But despite the eyeroll-inducing name, D-Bags look pretty cool.

The basic idea is very straightforward, and will be instantly obvious to anyone who’s played Dungeons & Dragons or any other game where you need lots of dice in different denominations: it’s a dice bag with pockets inside to sort your dice.

They come in a wide variety of colors and textures, and the true dice collector can get the giant version, a marvelous thing which is just absurdly huge!

So if you’re a player of games, go check out the kickstarter. It ends today, so hurry! Here’s the link!

I meant to include more pictures, but ran late and had to finish this post on my phone. Sorry about that.

Tonight while I was waiting for the metro a man walked up talking to everybody and nobody in an agitated voice. Like most city dwellers my first instinct was to ignore him, but his words were so… self affirming, I suppose, and lacking the usual warning signs of someone who might get violent, that I felt compelled to sort of cheer him on. “Damn right you’re worthy!”
As we boarded the train, he calmed down, asked me what line we were on, and left at the next station. I find myself wondering if he was mentally ill, or on drugs, or perhaps had just had an encounter with someone who vocally disapproved of him being, I think his words were “a beautiful black queen”, and needed to reassert himself.
Whatever the case, I hope his evening has gotten better since.

The Short Big Whine

I’m honestly trying to write more, but everything is pissing me off to the point where it always feels like anything I start will turn out to be nothing but a big long whine.

We have a political candidate (I almost wrote “political theater candidate,” which feels more accurate, to be honest) who’s getting serious support whose entire platform is based on being rich and hating a lot of people.

That scares the hell out of me, because even if he doesn’t have a chance of actually getting elected, what does it say about our country, and our culture, that he’s doing as well as he is? Hell what does it say about our world that hate and fear are still driving forces in societies? That a major point of so many social groups is that it will make you feel justified in treating other people like shit?

I remember a couple years back reading (and writing) about Christian Fascists in Greece, the part that comes to mind is a young man proudly proclaiming himself a Christian Fascist and declaring that this gave him the right to tell someone to leave. Now here in the USA we have audiences cheering a man for saying that given power he would institute torture.

I just don’t even want to live on this planet anymore.

Left behind

Intergalactic superstar David Bowie returned to his home planet yesterday, we who remain on Earth mourn his departure.
Wil Wheaton said it pretty well on his blog, Bowie didn’t seem mortal. The idea of him dying doesn’t seem real somehow.
I can’t possibly do him or his career justice, all I can do is listen to Blackstar, his most recent album, and try to get thru the day.
Take care of each other everyone.
Fuck cancer.

Easing back into it.

The title of this post is what I should have done when I decided to start blogging again. What I did instead was start plotting out a post that should probably be split into multiple posts, a project so ambitious that while scribbling notes over coffee this morning, two full weeks after deciding to do it, I finally realized just how much I had put on my plate. In hindsight, I should really have written several smaller posts first to get back into the swing of things.

In the meantime, here’s a video that really communicates the power of history. It’s not just a neat example of how historians try to make sense of events when it is impossible to know the full story, but it also has a verisimilitude to it that makes me think it should be part of the Star Wars canon. I can easily imagine exactly this being produced (within the fictional setting, that is) a few generations after the events of the movies.

I give you: The Galactic Civil War.

Read the rest of this entry

The Future of this Blog

I suppose I should start by saying that this blog does have a future.

That may be surprising to some of you. Over the last few years I’ve written less and less here, to the point where any thought about blogging tends to be followed immediately by wondering how long ago I last posted something.  Read the rest of this entry

Siblinghood Challenge! (Kinda)

I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I simply cannot complete the Siblinghood Challenge that E.H. gave me. I’m not really a part of the blogging community these days, rarely writing or reading blog posts. And there’s no way I can scrape up the brainpower to think of ten good questions, or even five bad ones.

But I ought to at least attempt to answer them. Maybe it’ll be the first step in writing frequently again. Maybe even thinking frequently, though we really shouldn’t get our hopes up. So let’s examine these questions.  Read the rest of this entry

I’ve been struggling with this post in the back of my mind for a month now, so I’m just going to type it out stream-of-consciousness style and hope I can edit something coherent out of the result.

First and foremost, thank you, E.H., for your flattering words here. I sat down that weekend to write something, I forget exactly what, and saw the comment that lead to your post, and haven’t been able to figure out how to respond since!

On the one hand, I’m thrilled that someone holds my writing in such high regard! On the other, I really haven’t written much this year. Read the rest of this entry

On logistics and software.

Reading this Wired article made me both wish I’d stuck it out for a software career & at the same time breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t. The sheer scale of it is literally awesome.
The logistics of the thing fascinate me. I mean, it’s hard to convince 25,000 people to show up at one place on a specified date. To coordinate all that code, and the constant changes being made to it…. Well, it just makes Caesar’s British campaign seem a bit trivial, you know?
But I keep thinking about it. This huge thing that people are writing, where each part has to work with every other part. It’s amazing. And it’s not just a weird quirk, this is the future. This is how the next generation of the internet is going to be made.
It’s amazing, and I’m excited to think about what may come next.

“I love you, I just don’t support you or your right to get married.”

So I saw this posted on facebook.
11412360_824610740922113_4130527251379414006_n
I am so angry about this I can’t even think straight. I expected better from the person who posted it.
Saying you “do not support” marriage equality is the same as saying it shouldn’t be legal. I can’t see another way to interpret it. That means you’re saying they should not be able to marry the person of their choosing, that they should be denied the benefits and privileges of the marriage contract. That this legal contract between equals should be restricted to certain types of people.
That all adds up to second-class citizen status because of who they love.

In this context, “stand for what we believe” means denying legal equality to an already persecuted minority. You’re not defending anyone, you’re not helping anyone, you’re hurting people for no benefit to anyone.

Furthermore, the stereotyping of Christians as hateful, small-minded bigots comes from statements exactly like this, statements that claim being a Christian means being anti-gay. The ones who push this stereotype the hardest are hate groups who want to pressure Christians to support them by convincing them that this is part of being a Christian. If you really want to separate Christianity from bigotry, you need to stop claiming it as your motivation every time you act like a bigot.

Incidentally, you can be a Christian without denying equal rights. If you don’t believe me, come to San Francisco Pride next year and see how many churches of various denominations march in it, often carrying signs advertising “I will marry you!”

Finally, the whine about “name-calling and stereotyping” being “what we don’t want done to you” grates me on another level, because while Christians do get called names and stereotyped, LGBT people get denied services, fired from their jobs, beaten, raped, and murdered. Don’t pretend that you’re equally persecuted with people who literally just won the right to have their marriages recognized throughout the country, and in half the nation the right to marry the person they choose at all.

Consider what friendship means before you imply all that, and then say “we’re still friends.”
I want my friends to be better people than that.

the psychology of power

Hello, readers. I’ve been digging through my drafts folder, deleting everything that doesn’t look like I can still get a post out of it, and I found this apparently complete post just sitting in there. I originally wrote it on February 17th, 2013, and I have no idea why I didn’t post it. I probably felt that I had more to say or something. Anyway, since I haven’t posted anything in a while, I figured I’d toss this up for you.

Interestingly, I don’t think I ever wrote a review of this book. Which is a shame, since it’s my favorite by this author so far. Maybe I’ll read it again and write about it soon, who knows.

Everything that follows the asterisks is from February 2013.

*** Read the rest of this entry

Today’s Feminism

Saw this on Twitter this evening and got to thinking. 

Screen shot 2014-09-03 at 9.21.44 PM

The topmost tweet is that one that caught my attention. I’ll quote it in case it’s difficult to read. 

Most gamers seem to support equality feminism. What they reject is today’s male-bashing, propaganda-driven, female chauvinism.

I read a lot of claims about “modern feminism” or “3rd wave feminism” or even “4th wave feminism” being somehow separate from “equality feminism”, but I don’t usually see much else. It’s just sort of thrown out as though it’s self-evident that mainstream feminism today has abandoned the old standard of “the radical notion that women are people” and become an excuse for male-bashing by ugly, uppity women. 

Actually, I’m pretty sure people have been saying that about women’s rights movements since before “feminism” was a word. 

Honestly I do have an actual point to get to, but first I have to wonder: is “male-bashing, propaganda-driven, female chauvinism” actually a thing? I mean, I’ve seen a couple of websites that describe themselves as “radical feminists” and do seem to be openly hostile towards men, but they seem to be fairly isolated and don’t attempt to, you know, actually oppress men in any way. I just haven’t seen any of this male-bashing in a position of actual influence, you see, and certainly not to the point that you could describe it as though it were the primary voice of feminism today. 

But moving on, the bottommost tweet added some context, which really must be appreciated. 

I always expected other liberal-minded scholars to join me in exposing 3rd wave feminist lunacy.Never happened.But now the gamers r here.

Just so we’re clear, is there some other clash between feminists and gamers, or is she actually talking about the waves of hate and abuse Anita Sarkeesian has been receiving for the heinous crime of creating a video series examining common sexist tropes in video games? You know, the shit that’s gotten so bad that blogging about the death threats she’s received is enough to bring death threats of your own down on you?

Because to be honest, I’m not really seeing that as “exposing 3rd wave feminist lunacy”. Not even a little. It really looks like pure reactionary anger to me. 

Look, I’m not all-knowing. Maybe I’ve missed some vital context here.

Truth is, lately I’ve gotten lazy about checking sources & background on anything to do with feminism, because it’s always boiled down to a bunch of guys with a sense of entitlement whining. I think the turning point was a kerfluffle about a conference instituting a sexual harassment policy for the first time. The outcry wasn’t over the content or implementation of the new policy, it was that they had a sexual harassment policy at all.

Not that it’s really relevant, but from what I recall the policy itself was pretty boilerplate. Instructions to staff dealing with complaints were basically, “Document everything, and call the police if someone asks you to.”

It’s gotten increasingly difficult for me to take this sort of thing seriously since then. 

 

Are you okay?

Howard Taylor’s Schlock Mercenary is one of a handful of webcomics that I still read fairly regularly, and I’ve come to respect his opinions on movies, so I always check the blog post to see if there’s a movie I should see or avoid. I’m glad I’ve gotten into this habit, because it gave me the chance to read this short non-fiction piece about mental health. Do yourself a favor and check that out. 

Something that occurred to me though was that the title, “No. I’m fine.” is something I’m likely to say if someone asks me if I’m okay. Regardless of whether or not I’m okay, I’ve been more or less trained to answer that question with “I’m fine”, “Yes, nothing to worry about”, or “I’m always okay”, and usually I don’t even spare a thought to consider whether or not I am, in fact, okay. (Does it still count as a lie if you don’t actually know & just answer automatically?) Read the rest of this entry

Dungeons of Old San Francisco

I visited the San Francisco Dungeon on Fisherman’s Wharf the other day. I was a little disappointed by the lack of spanking, but it turns out it’s not that sort of dungeon. 

In fact, “dungeon” isn’t really a good name for it, except there doesn’t seem to be a better one for this sort of attraction. The only other appropriate term that comes to mind is “haunt” which suffers from the same shortfalls as “dungeon” does. 

Whatever it is, it’s pretty fun. The basic premise is that you go through creepy rooms inspired by San Francisco history, starting with a mine circa 1849, and moving through such attractions as mid-19th century gang hideouts, a frighteningly overworked & corrupt court system, a shanghai saloon, plague-infested late 19th century chinatown, up to a climactic encounter in early 20th century Alcatraz. 

Strangely, there’s also a mirror maze. It was presented as a metaphorical representation of a deep mine nobody has escaped from, but it still felt out of place. I’m not going to complain about that too much, though, because it was probably the most fun part for me. I’ve always been slightly annoyed by these attractions that just herd you from one scene to the next, I want to explore on my own. Just one more reason why I wish so badly that The Night Circus were real, I suppose. 

The acting was mostly delightfully over-the-top, except for a few brief instances where it was chillingly understated. There were the sort of cheap jokes you expect at a tourist attraction, several fun moments of singling out audience members to embarrass, and some very, very clever sets. There’s a lot of creativity in there, it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it and that the cast care about their performances. 

On the downside, the scene in Alcatraz is seriously too loud, I mean painfully loud. If they aren’t providing earplugs for the cast they’re going to get sued over that, and rightly so. The show also suffers from marketing hype, the promotional images set expectations far above what it delivers, although in that I suppose it’s no worse than any amusement park I’ve ever been to. 

(Seriously, I can still remember the first time I went to Disneyland in the fourth grade and I thought it didn’t live up to the hype. Especially Tom Sawyer’s cave; it was just a tunnel with a column dividing it near the middle! Did they even read that book? Anyway, back to the dungeon.)

October is coming up, and with it a flurry of haunts to keep a fear-lover busy. I’m curious if the SF Dungeon will see a drop in attendance due to competition, or a rise in it because it’ll be the season for such things and on people’s minds. Perhaps the two will even out? 

Overall, it’s not a bad way to kill an hour. This show isn’t really my type of entertainment, but I still had a good time and even managed to sit through the entire scene in Miss Piggot’s Saloon without making a single “Kermit The Frog” joke, which I feel deserves recognition. If you’re the sort who enjoys this kind of haunted house show it’s definitely the best I’ve ever seen and probably the best you’re going to find in the Bay Area. At $22 ($16 for children) the tickets are a little pricey for an hour’s entertainment, but I’ve seen worse. 

Don’t forget to visit the restroom on your way in, you’ll thank me for that. 

Meeting Arturo

Arturo Galster was a legend in the San Francisco drag community. He passed away on Sunday the 24th of August, apparently from a head injury. SFGate and SFist have obituaries of sorts, and I’m not going to try to write anything like that. I want to talk about the image I built of him, through the people he’s left an imprint on. I won’t give any names or repeat any specific stories, partly because it would feel like publishing a page out of someone else’s diary, and also because I was a bit drunk and don’t really trust my memory. This is about feelings, not facts. 

There was an informal memorial held deep in the night between Saturday and Sunday, and I was privileged to attend it, even though I never met Arturo. It was an eclectic affair even by this city’s standards; a motley collection of performers, fans, hangers on, and random passersby laughing and crying and talking beneath a tree while the city glittered around us.

Some of the people there were staying up late to be present, others had just finished working. The clothes ranged from jeans & a hoodie to five-inch stiletto heals with LEDs that blinked every step combined with a slinky black dress, fishnet top and more LEDs in the chest. As the night wore on, the wind picked up and cold began to seep into the mourners, punctuated by the almost comical attempts to keep a candle lit. A bottle of Arturo’s preferred whiskey was passed around, and stories were told and memories shared. And I began to build a picture of this person I’ll never be able to meet, assembled from the words of those who loved him. 

Arturo was kind without necessarily being nice. He noticed people working with him and made a point of greeting them, even if they were the lowliest ticket collector. His philosophy was that you should not ask for what you need, but demand it, and he taught that to young performers he worked with as well as living it for himself. Arturo was willing to advocate for the new kids to get their chance to shine. He also traveled extensively, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of those stories from his traveling companions over a drink sometime. 

I know there was more to him, more than I could ever learn even if I decided to spend the rest of my life as his biographer. People are complicated, and no matter how well you think you know someone they always have hidden depths, they’re always capable of surprising you. It can be easy to simplify your impression of somebody, just as it can also be easy to fall into comfortable routines, letting habit decide your actions. I get the impression that Arturo was also a believer in working outside your comfort zone. 

I did not speak when everyone was standing in a big circle telling their stories, but I knew what I would have said, so I’ll say it now. 

I never met Arturo, and I never will. Listening to the stories from those who knew him I feel robbed of that chance. He wasn’t killed by age or disease, his death was entirely avoidable. To me knowing that, and hearing people speak of him, powerfully underscores our responsibility to take care of each other, and to cherish each other. 

That is all I have to say, for now. Please take care of yourselves, and take care of each other. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 202 other followers

%d bloggers like this: