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Your Culture Shanghaied

May 29, 2013 Leave a comment

Your Culture Shanghaied

Chrome countertops and dark corners, vinyl booths and neon highlights. Chinese delegation across the the Japanese and everyone just keep cool for a minute—Jimmy Carter’s at the bar ordering tequila shots and pitchers of High Life.

Once the yellow ribbon had been tied and the Chevy is in the Levy someone’s going to do Elvis. Everyone’s going to do Elvis. After last call drunk Asian men will be falling over each other in a tangle of laughter and tears and a half-remembered conspiracy involving escorts. No more Diaoyu. No more Senkaku. The islands are now the premiere free port Chinese restaurant and karaoke resort. Let the Taiwanese run the place if it’ll shut them up.

No more Chinese, no more Japanese. The Ambassador embodies the technicolor dreamcoat promise of our melting pot society; your culture Shanghaied and bled dry. While eating at a steakhouse in the backwaters of Kansai I stared at lassos on the walls and sizzling platters of beef at every table. It wasn’t insulting. Every salaryman staring at John Wayne on TV paid a deeply confused reverence to a mythology of the west.

Here in The States we don’t believe in the Pioneer corporation or MSG. We ravish them for cheap pleasure and cannibalize our own idealized past by rigging black lights over a crumbling malt-shop aesthetic and soaking everything in Jägermeister and yesterday’s vomit. John was holding up an entire race of people on his shoulders and my two-bits of Japanese heritage proved more authentic than the ripoff salt and pepper calamari churning in our guts. On stage a white girl bust out Biggie while her friends raised the roof. The staff was a uniform shade of pasty and if there were any Chinese in the kitchen they had been warned about showing their faces. Everyone is welcome, I’m sure, if they’ve got five bucks for the cover. Or if they’re underaged. Teenyboppers get stuck in a segregated juvenile detention center where the lights are brighter and you don’t have to wait for tomorrow’s hangover to feel ashamed. Read more…

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Will the Chinese Own Governor Gav?

April 25, 2009 5 comments

Hometown hero Gavin Newsom officially announced his candidacy for Governor of California on April 21st, flaunting his technical savvy by simultaneously championing his cause on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Not being as cybernetic as most of my peers I was forced to enjoy the video spectacle and was once again struck by how embarrassing it is when our supposed leaders pander to the people by utilizing shitty resolution for the sake of networking. Show a little class and stream your own videos.

There’s nothing particularly striking about his pep talk, aside from my being struck with uncontrollable laughter as soon as his well manicured mug appears. San Francisco is hailed as the nation’s leader in universal health care, ecological innovation and retaining teachers amidst grievous budget cuts. He repeatedly uses the term “we” instead of the political assertion of “I”, which has become something of a hallmark in all of his communiques. He is not running for governor so much as we are all being invited to run for governor. I guess this means I’ve been traveling the state with an SFPD escort all this time. The message is that San Francisco is doing better than California and the allusion is that it’s because we’ve had Gavin Newsom at the helm, single-handedly steering us into calmer waters as the rest of the world drowns in a fiscal tempest. The “green economy” is our guiding light, as evidenced by happy laborers installing solar paneling. Voters and the Board of Supervisors, advocates and PACs are not invited to share in the glory of our solar panels.

The elections won’t take place for another year but this never prevents pollsters from harassing the recluses and bored housewives who generate public opinion. If Jerry Brown and Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who are both assumed to be entering the race, run then Newsom places third. If Senator Dianne Feinstein throws her hat into the ring he drops to fourth, but he has commented that if she does he will bow out– as long as she announces her candidacy early enough. In an effort to court less slick Democrats Newsom has been spotted meeting with under-enlightened prospective voters in traditional hicktowns San Diego and Stockton where he plans to replace their images of gay marriage with his successful chain of yuppie eateries and wine bars.

So will the San Francisco model work the length and breadth of a state as large and diverse as California, and more importantly can Newsom convince skeptics he can handle the responsibilities given his track record? Are solar panels the key to economic solvency and can his experience managing lifestyle businesses trump the fact that China owns our collective asses? Perhaps we should examine a little bit of recent history wherein out intrepid leader laid down and allowed a foreign government full reign of policing the streets of San Francisco. Read more…

The Future Is La Antigua Guatemala

March 20, 2009 4 comments

La Antigua Guatemala is a small city which enjoys a robust tourism industry and hosts innumerable Spanish language schools for foreigners. Buried in the colonial architecture (which earned the city status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) lies all the trappings of modern civilization. The relative wealth of La Antigua amidst the poverty and violence of Guatemala has afforded the city opportunities to modernize, and the government seems open to all ideas which may propel La Antigua into the 21st century as assuredly as any western nation.

Towards the end of last year the municipality introduced a free wireless zone in its central park, earning it status as the first digital city of Latin America. The novel concept of free wi-fi for all has been championed by consumer advocates the world over but in San Francisco the process has been bogged down by negotiations with competing providers and to this day there is no such service, but in La Antigua they just decided to roll up their sleeves and make it happen. When one thinks of Guatemala they probably don’t imagine internet cafes and people using their laptops in the park, but access is available to all who would wish to make use of it.

As encouraging as that development is the people of La Antigua are preparing to lay the ground-work for another first, and possibly becoming the first city of its kind in the entire world. According to Rudy Giron’s excellent La Antigua Daily Photo, a group of dedicated people are busy laying the framework for an alternative fuel project for the city. Biopersa organizers went from restaurant to restaurant collecting spent cooking oil with the intention of reprocessing it into biodiesel for municipal vehicles and the local hospital. If the initial steps are successful and the idea takes hold La Antigua Guatemala could be the first city which operates its city vehicles entirely on reprocessed biodiesel.(See bottom for an update.) Read more…

Care Not Cash Revisited

February 1, 2009 1 comment

In honor of Gavin Newsom’s exploratory campaign for governor I’ve decided to try and figure out what he’s been worth as mayor. Frankly I’ve no real clue what the guy does all day but he’s a few high-profile moments. The first time Gavin percolated into the public consciousness was as he was just starting out in politics.

Way back in 2004 Gavin Newsom was just another City Supervisor overseeing the rough and tumble Marina district, a neighborhood which he had invested heavily in as owner of some boutique wine shops. Having aspirations for the throne, warmed by Willie Brown’s sharply-dressed touche, he threw his hat in the ring by proposing drastic changes to the way that San Francisco provided services to the homeless. His proposal received the Hallmark moniker of Care Not Cash and the basic premise seemed painfully simple: instead of issuing cash grants to people on the city dole why not provide housing and various health services? On the surface it’s so common sense, tackling vagrancy by giving vagrants a place to live, but the mechanisms behind the ballot measure were not so simple.

Politics played a large role in the creation of Care Not Cash, both on the local and Federal levels. San Francisco has always had a large homeless population and various mayors had attempted to deal with this in various ways. Art Agnos decided to let the homeless camp unmolested on the lawn of City Hall and the adjacent park figuring that we shouldn’t hide a problem we couldn’t fix. Frank Jordan, a former lawman, sent squads of police out into the city to roust camps and move the undesirables along to less desirable districts. Neither predecessor to Willie Brown had any sort of measurable impact on the population; in fact the numbers continued to climb. As San Francisco, always a tourist destination, saw business shift further from light industrial to service and as an influx of proto-dotcom assholes began to migrate into town the eyesore of panhandlers and drug-addled lunatics began to be perceived as a political threat; after the internet bubble burst and the stock market took hit after hit, the pressure to stave off the less attractive city landmarks grew. Meanwhile President Bush’s homeless policy was threatening aid cuts to cities who were not changing policies to represent an emphasis on housing before all other services. Read more…