Ganja brownies

While I was reading tarot cards at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, my pal Joel was wondering between concert stages. He noticed a man selling cannabis. This wasn’t too difficult because the man was standing in the middle of the path yelling, “Ganja brownies! Ganja brownies!” Now, MaryJ may be legal in the golden state but it’s not that legal. The only people legally allowed to partake of the green are those with a prescription card. And I don’t think this guy was checking any credentials.
Joel noticed that a woman was talking to a police officer and pointing at the man. Was there about to be a scene? He watched as the police officer walked over to the salesman. Then the police officer bought a brownie and ate it himself.

Bienvenidos a San Francisco.

PLUR and Pleather, Leather and Piercings

When it comes to pride parades, P.C. San Francisco leaves no carnival opportunity undiscovered. This past weekend featured the brightest and darkest of festivals with LoveFest on Saturday and Fulsome Street Fair on Sunday. Both had women in fishnets, middle-aged naked guys and the pungent aroma of government weed. But what Bay Area party would be complete with out these things? Saturday and Sunday thousands came out to rave and spank, starting the fun with LoveFest.

Don’t throw out those glow sticks just yet. Dance music is still alive and pulsing and LoveFest is the proof. The festival is originally based on the rave music Love Parade in Berlin. The German festival decided not to go international this year. So the San Francisco sponsors took on the street party solo with the new name, LoveFest.

Each float had a different D.J. spinning and a crew of party-people to warm your dancing feet. Some floats had generic dancing babes (a la Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love video). Others had a variety of costumed and candy-covered club kids. The line between spectator and participant was blurred as those who watched the parade came dressed up to join in and dance down Market Street when the music moved them. If you can dream it up and it’s brightly colored, there’s a chance someone was wearing it on Saturday.

I commend the planners of Lovefest for pulling off the event without a horde of sponsors hawking banks, beer, lube and other vaguely related products. The focus remained firmly on the techno beats and the beautiful, freaky people. Saturday’s street party owes its success to the ordinary folks with a wealth of time, creativity and, well, wealth that made LoveFest a newer brighter, happy-sunshine-rainbow-butterfly version of Halloween.

Fulsom is like Halloween, too! But only if you imagine the Halloween party that Larry Flynt would throw for Jean Genet and Sandra Bernhard. It’s the party where folks get-together and celebrate all things BDSM. What is there to do at the Fulsom Street Fair? You can get spanked and flogged (for free!) by a professional. You can find and join a public circle-jerk. You can finally get a chance to wear those ass-less chaps grandma got you for Christmas. You can watch a terrific drag show that showcases twenty years of Madonna in twenty minutes. You can shake your ass with hot women in pink leather pasties to the dark techno of My Life With Thrill Kill Kult.

As much as I enjoyed dancing to the Days of Swine and Roses, the band that really stole the show was Smash-Up Derby. This is a tranny-sexy-cool group with a great drummer and a ton of energy. They started as a collaboration between two mash-up D.J.s, Adrian Roberts and Dada. It’s unfair to focus attention to any one member of the band, however, as each member provides an essential element of talent and synergy. On top of that, they have a fun and catchy concept: they do live versions of mash-ups. That is, they cover two songs at once by taking the lyrics of popular songs and mixing them with alternative rock classics.

Whether your preferred form of hi-jinks involves all-night dancing or all-night nipple pinching, start planning your outfit for next year. I know I will be searching for just the right pink-day-glo platform boots or lace-up pleather pants. You gotta’ represent, you know? That is, if you insist on wearing clothing at all.

Like A Drunk Phone Call in the Middle of the Night…

… only you can mock it at your daytime convenience.

I’m drunk. but having one of those moments where I appreciate the miracle of life.

Take a moment to let it sink in. This is life. Beautiful, precious, (melo)dramatic, insignificant. How does your heart beat, over and over like that, without stopping? How do you breath, over and over, every minute? If you’re brain is only neurons firing, how do you have this history of memories that result in a person. You. Not just a being but a storyline, an actualization, a culmination of thousands of years of evolution? (and still so much further to go, in that regard.) I look at my pasty skin, my multi-colored eyes, my yellow teeth. Any number of miracles are happening there.

If you accept that living is miraculous (how can you not accept that?) than it must be pointed out how insignificant we are compared to the cosmos. And yet, miraculous we are nonetheless. So. Also miraculous must be our cells dividing. Every flake of skin we shed is a tragedy to the epidermal next-of-kin. There is a war going on between my blood-cells and the alcohol. A holy war, for the holy land that is the temple of my body.

Not that I am sacred. No more than you.

This thing called life is so brief. In less than a century it will all be over. This collection of memories and ideologies that is unique in the entire universe to you will be gone. There is no replicating it. Then:

Take a moment to treasure yourself.

Because no one will ever be exactly like you, and all that you have learned, and have yet to learn, cannot be matched by the history of time.

And no one will ever be exactly like you again, and someday,

you will be gone.

What impact can you make, in so brief a time? And yet, what other choice do you have? Each moment compels you to rub your back on the musty pages of history. It doesn’t matter how small the mark.

It matters that it is really happening. Life is more amazing than anything I could have dreamed up. Kudos to God (be that evolution). Stunning debut. Even from pain and misery, life gets a standing ovation.

Now I look forward to the second act. 😉

Opera—It Ain’t Your Mama’s Browser Anymore

I remember when my mom was trying out the Opera browser. She’s always quick to find the next trend. At the time, you had to pay to use it or have pesky ads on your desktop. Those days are gone. The new Opera is free and fast. Are you ready to leave Mozilla behind?

I know, you’re all attached to Mozilla as the only alternative to IE and the blessed-bringer of tabbed browsing. Guess what? Opera invented tabbed browsing. They were also the first to have a Google toolbar. The new opera has this feature where you can use any search engine in the url box. For example, if I wanted to search for the “history of Crete” on Wikepedia, I would type:

w history of Crete

into the url box; hit enter, and it will take you straight the results. And you can set Opera to do this for any search engine you want. I have ones for the Urban Dictionary and, though these would never be included in a standard browser.

This wasn’t what won me over, though. I’m sure you’re not spending countless hours on bittorrent because that would imply that you are downloading copywrited stuff and I don’t know anyone who does that. But let’s just say, you know, that guy, your cousin’s friend, who downloads torrents. If he uses Opera, he can just click on the torrent and it will download like it’s a regular link because Opera has a built-in torrent program.

The thing that won my heart is the “notes” feature. Often I keep a word processing program open just so I can copy/paste things into it that I found online. Opera has a built in note pad. You just select the text and on the right-click menu you can add a note. It will save this text in the “notes” area as well as the url you got it from.

They also have these widgets that you can use to further customize your Opera experience: mp3 players, video games, calendars, news feeds, a “to do” list, etc. You can make your own widgets. I’m a little skeptical of widgets. On the one hand, if all you do all day is browse the net, then why not have everything attached to your browser? On the other, why use a widget sketchpad (for example) to draw pictures when I can use the Gimp or Photoshop?

Hey, Ray**, when you’re looking at porn, don’t you generally have ten or twelve tabs open at a time? When you hover over the tabs in Opera it shows you a little thumbnail of the page (similar to the way Safari does it) so you know just which throbbing man-muscle to click on.

But wait, there’s more! Remember how when you do a Google image search, first you have to click on the link then click again on “see full-sized image”? Opera has a rewind and fast forward button that you would use in situations like that to zip past the middle pages. Those programmers all the way in Norway have me figured out. Amazing.

Dear Mozilla,

It’s been a beautiful love affair. But I’ve found someone better, with more features. I won’t forget you. Can we still be friends?


The Peacheater
*If your still using the antiquated Microsoft Explorer, get out of the Bronze Age my friend. Do you still listen to 8-tracks?

**Insert here the name of your friend whose internet porn collection rivals the number of records at your local college radio station

Plug Plug Plug Pandora

Imagine a radio station that could predict what kind of songs that you like and only play those songs. As the music plays, you can customize it further by voting for or against particular songs.

But of course, my hipster friends, you all ready know that such a station exists; it’s called Pandora. You know, as well, that the idea behind Pandora is to imagine each song can be broken down into its own DNA structure. They achieve this by listening to thousands of songs and breaking them down into specific pieces. For example, Pandora indicates that I like songs that feature folk influences, major key tonality, prominent organ, acoustic and rhythm guitars. (Wait, maybe I should add some Le Tigre to de-emphasize the folk aspect. Just a minute.)

It knows this because I told it four or five bands that I like and created a playlist for me. Correction, it is constantly creating a playlist for me, perfecting and selecting for my listening pleasure.

Pandora is not for people who want to listen to the same five bands over and over (and over and over) again. It is for people who use Myspace as a way listen to the newest bands or download streaming audio of their favorite D.J.s.

Speaking of Myspace, remember when no one used it because we were all on Friendster? Personally, I switched over to Mspace because of the ability to customize the music on my profile. Friendster has, in a stroke (the Strokes are a good band, hold on while I add them to my Pandora list ) of brilliance, decided to partner up with Pandora to create customized radio stations. So if you have a Friendster account and you haven’t logged in for a while that would be an easy way to check out Pandora, if you haven’t all ready.

The interface is not perfect. It is hard move forward and backwards in your playlist. There’s no way to post your list on a blog (this may be of questionable legality, anyway, but people are doing it as is). You can’t give incremental or weighted rankings, only yes/no votes. Yet it is intuitively easy to use. As long as they have that, and the program works its magic, they will work out the kinks (oh! I like the Kinks! Just let me add them to my Pandora list and I’ll be right back). And the beauty part is that it does work.

Part of what people seem to get sucked into with the new technologies are the various abilities to customize their experience. Now we have a product that you can spend time tinkering with or just leave it alone and it will perfect it for you. That’s pretty damn special. I’m putting my money on this as the next big net phenomenon. Or I would be, if I weren’t spending so much time playing with it.

In Praise of the Ritual

No one was more surprised than me to find yours truly spending the evening with a coven of witches. Isn’t that what folks do in Berkeley: march in pride parades, practice witchcraft and buy organic coffee? Well, yes, actually, that’s exactly what folks do around here. But I have always had trouble worshiping a god/dess that, while maybe important to the people who built the Parthenon, has always been presented to me as a fairy-tale.

Nonetheless, I found the ritual delightful. Everyone left their eye of newt and their cauldron at home and got together to bake bread. The idea was that it is now the beginning of the harvest so we must take stock of what we’ve produced. It was also the end of planting so we are celebrating the seeds that will grow in the next season. As we collectively rolled and kneaded, Priestess TigerWillow explained the symbolism of the various spices you might add to your bread. We each chose spices based on what we hoped to “plant” into our lives in the upcoming year. It takes some planning to make bread so I enjoyed making it a social process. I would never have the patience to assemble the ingredients, let them set for an hour to rise, knead and shape it and then bake for another hour.

It is amazing to start from a lot of nothing – a packet of yeast, some water and flour – and turn it into the lovely, clefted loaf of bread more often seen on display than for eating. There must have been a bit of magic in the room because we left our bread in the bowl with just a towel over it and low and behold an hour later it rose up and doubled in size. I felt like a kid on Mr. Wizard.

While our hopes and dreams were in the oven we made corn dollies. The objective is similar to that of the bread. While crafting your dolly, you think of what you hope to accomplish in the next year and decorate her accordingly. It’s playing with Barbies for girls with Day Planners. More importantly, it is a very right-brained way of doing the kind of left-brained planning creative types have so much trouble with. Those of us whose personalities are more creative and fluid don’t take naturally to putting checks in boxes next to goals completed. But we can make a work of art that reminds us of our goals and stick it where we’ll see it every day. Had we done this last year, it would be time to burn our old dolly before forming the new one. What a great ritual! I am so in favor of this ritual that I might just do it again next year even if there are no women channeling Demeter anywhere in sight.

Ever since everyone you and I know read Shirley Jackson’s “the Lottery”, ritual has gotten a bad name. As a modern, jaded heathen, I look at the traditions of our culture with a certain amount of skepticism. Many who don’t see themselves as the religion they were raised try to participate in the spirit of the various holidays without actually believing: eating turkey and giving thanks in November and exchanging presents and being nice in December.

It has reached the point where the acts are no longer connected with the meaning they once intended. A plastic, glowing Christmas tree may be a thing of beauty but it is certainly no reminder of the tenacity of life during the harsh winter. We should be asking ourselves: what is the purpose of this tradition? Does it do what it intends to do? Is the objective something I value in my life?

The last question is both the most important and the least important. If, for example, you plan to have central heat every winter for the rest of your life you may not give a damn about appreciating the harsh winter. Find a more worthy ritual. On the other hand, parents pass on these rituals to their progeny because they hold value, whether you see it or not. So you may want to experiment with the traditions that challenge your values. If a ritual has lasted for thousands of years than maybe there’s something to be said for it. If winter means nothing more to you than a higher gas bill, maybe such a tradition is just what you need.

Outside of the church, social gatherings can be lacking in meaning. More and more, people only seem to get together to take drugs or watch television or go shopping. These are our rituals and as we promote them they become us. We become them.

What are the rituals that shape your life? What meanings do they have? How are they significant and in what ways do you take them for granted? Wouldn’t it be great to take stock of what’s important to you, philosophically and spiritually, and create or continue rituals that promote that ideology? There is so much in life to celebrate. Do it right.

On Being Healthy

I didn’t know Tanya very well but I loved to hear her sing. The last time I heard her voice was at her birthday party. It was the usual sharing of booze and cake and remix cds that makes a terrific fiesta. The post-party sickness she felt was neither a hangover nor a nasty cold. A week later she died of spinal meningitus. I found this out because all my friends from the party had to go to the FSU student clinic and get vaccinated. I had just graduated from college so I couldn’t get the vaccine like my college chums.

That’s the first time I thought about universal healthcare.

There is a certain point of view that supposes that if you don’t have health care it’s because you planned poorly and the money you should have spent on check-ups you instead invested on beer and Nintendo. Fine, I confess. I was an immature, shop-a-thon collge kid. Maybe not a sin I’m prepared to [get sick and] die for but there may have been a cheap vaccine some where in my town.

So, according to this POV it’s okay for me get sick– these are the natural and deserved consequences of my irresponsibility. But if I don’t get vaccinated I become just another vector allowing for a greater chance of infecting those righteous insured people — like the private school kids I worked with for the last two years. It seems logical to me that a disease that looks like a cold and can kill you in under a week is the sort of thing that every citizen should know they can be vaccinated for, free of cost. That seems like a public service every bit as valueable as libraries and bomb shelters.

But we don’t live in such a country. In this country getting sick is a punishment for being poor and gettng well is a privilege.

I have another friend that I’m going to call Jack. Growing up, Jack’s family ran a successful business. They had money but because they were self-employed they didn’t have good health care. Young Jack had health problems that the doctors in the cheap clinics couldn’t understand. He used to make up stories that he was taken by aliens as an explanation for the strange things that were happening to his body. Young Jack had health care. But it wasn’t until he was an adult many years later that he had really good health insurance. It didn’t take these doctors long to tell Jack that he has had cancer most of his life. He has been watching the disease spread, powerless to fight it or even know what it was. I am so angry that he has spent his whole life fighting and it would have taken so little to give him a head start.

I’m talking about universal health care. Hell, if they can afford it in Cuba surely in los Estados Unidos we can afford to do something.

If I were building my own community one of the first things I would establish would be a health center to treat the people. Not because of some political ideology but because it is natural to want those in your tribe to be healthy and content. Even large conferences have a first aid tent. When did our society decide to stop treating illness as a public health problem?

Perhaps it was around the time we started thinking of it as a business.

So. We decided that health is a product and that those who deserve it are those who can afford it. Anyone else out there willing to admit that there is a better lens to view this through, not shrouded by the color of money?

The recent dangers of flying rocks and CO2.

By far the most disturbing class I ever took in college was astronomy. The planetarium shows always featured either the theme, “Look how insignificant we are,” or ,”We could all die at any minute.” Our instructor told us about asteroids that hit our little planet all the time. We saw pictures. The conversation goes…

“So if this had been a major city, millions would have died.”

“Shouldn’t we be concerned?”

“Oh, well, it’s unlikely.”

“Yeah, but that one you have on the screen happened about two years ago.”

“Yes, but it is most likely to hit the ocean, or an unoccupied land mass. Like this giant crater in this slide… anyway, if they see it coming, they could nudge it several inches from thousands of miles away and that would be enough to steer it off course.”

“Didn’t seem to work in this picture.”

“Well, yes, no one knows about most of them until after they hit.”

“So, what you’re saying is, there’s always a slight chance that a giant asteroid could come hurtiling towards my window and pulverize you, me, and everyone we know; we have the capability to stop this and we don’t bother to hire two or three grad students to stay on top of this sort of thing?”

“Well, yes, except that a large asteroid really has the potential to destroy all life on earth. But really, it’s quite unlikely. So here’s another picture from 1992; this crater is about the size of New Hampshire…”

I have only felt that sort of terror and shock over the fate of our world on one other occasion — last week. I went to go see this film called “An Inconvenient Truth.” It’s about the presentation that Al Gore’s been giving in cities all over the world to spread the truth about global warming.

I’m sure you’re thinking, a slide show about Al Gore? zzzzzzz …. SNORE…. zzzzzz….

Yet the facts alone are compelling enough to make this required watching for anyone who has or is thinking about having children. Or anyone who cares about the future of humanity. Or anyone that’s planning on living to a ripe old age. Or anyone who was affected by Hurricane Katrina. Or anyone whose noticed that summers keep getting hotter and hotter. Or — Okay, you get the idea.

The presentation of the film is engaging without being too flashy. I was watching Ebert and Roeper (I don’t really like either of them but I like to watch them bicker — now that’s reality TV!) and Ebert said that for the first time in his entire career he felt that it was apt to say, “You owe it to yourself to see this movie.”

On another note, I think its fantastic that Al Gore hasn’t gone into retirement. But where was this side of him when he was running for office? If he’s so concerned about global warming than it should have been a huge part of his campaign. In the movie Gore has wit and character. Where was this in the speeches and debates? Of course the Democrats don’t want to step on any toes. There so worried about stepping on toes they can barely cross the street.

Whatever your opinions of Al, please go see this movie. You won’t regret it.

Half-ass Attacked, Generous Queen

It’s not much of a coincidince that I was thinking about the possibility of being attacked because that is something I contemplate every time I am walking alone in the middle of the night. I was talking to my mother on my cell phone and she said that she wanted to keep me on the line, just to be safe. I told her that talking on the phone only makes me look like more of a mark but that I wanted to chat because walking at night is boring. The clunky heels didn’t help either. So yeah, I was considering the idea. But every girl does.

But that’s the end of the evening and (having read Through the Looking Glass like a proper child) stories should start at beginnings.

I was doing promotional work at Charlie Brown’s Cabaret (that’s a drag show, to you out-of-town folks), just handing out free CDs and taking pictures. It was a great show, one of their best that I’ve seen. They had some Kings that go by the name Boys to Men. They had great showmanship but the gender-bending was unconvincing. Genre did a glitter-goth androgynous act that was just my cup of tea. Most of the other queens did the typical shimmy-shake of silicone that brings a cascade of dollar bills. Alexandria, the queen that was helping me promote CDs, did her act on roller skates. Charlie Brown demanded that the two audience members willing to admit they are republicans should give her five dollars gas money to get home.

A friendly gay man struck up a conversation with me. He works for the Village Voice. I asked him how he got that [sweet] gig and he said he went to Harvard and wrote for the Harvard Review. Well then. I’d have better luck hitching a ride with Doctor Who than getting into Harvard. He said the way to get a job is to write every single day. So here I am, writing. Then he asked me about the privacy of the bathrooms which I’m just going to assume is a drug thing and not a weird, fear of peeing thing.

By the time the queen gave out the last of the CDs and I had taken all the pictures I could it was 1:50. Unfortunately, the last train leaves at 1:20. I knew that I could call the boyfriend to pick me up but I remember how mad Liz was last year when I did that to her. Besides, I’ve had to ask my honey for rides so often that he almost expects it. I thought about asking some friends who lived in the area if they would pick me up and I could crash at their place.

I’m torn between not wanting to be dependent upon my friends and thinking that’s what friends are for.

Around this time, Queen Alexandria asks me if I got any good pictures. Yes, I tell her. I’ve been all smiles all night. Why do I look so cross now, she wants to know. When I tell her I missed the last train, she offers me the milk of her own teet! That is, she pulls a ten dollar bill out of her tits so I can call a cab. What a lady!

I hail a cab, which makes me feel like a big-city girl. But I only have eleven dollars so I tell the cabbie to pull over when meter hits nine so I can give him a shitty tip. He says he’d rather me get home safely then worry about a tip but I insist. After all, I’d have to walk twice the distance from the train station.

I was about four blocks from home when I decided to call my mother. There was no one in sight, which is just the way I like it when I’m walking through the city in the middle of the night.

When I get to the block my apartment is on, a guy is walking behind me. No big deal. We’re both crossing the street. He’s walking faster than me. That’s okay, everyone has their own pace. So I change my course a little to put some distance between us. But he’s still getting closer. Now I’m thinking, what’s this about? He looks pretty clean cut, I don’t think he’s crazy/homeless. Anyway, he’s behind me so I don’t think he’s going to ask me for anything. People usually address you before they approach you right? But this guy, he’s touching me, he actually has his hand on my side, where my coat pocket is. So I turn around and say:

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING ME? DON’T YOU SEE IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT; THERE’S NO ONE AROUND ANYWHERE. YOU’RE SCARING ME. GO AWAY.” I was not screaming but projecting firmly and politely. Its insane that I feel the need to be polite to this person that I feel is possibly threatening my life just in case I’m some how mistaken and it is perfectly okay to walk up to a stranger and grab them at three in the morning. The guy is saying something in response but I don’t really hear what it is. So sorry, can’t hear you while you are scaring the piss out of me.

Of course, my mom is freaking out. What does he look like? She wants to know in case she needs to call the police. He has a white, numbered jersey. His face is round. He is short and squat. He’s wearing a black messenger bag, the kind with a cell phone pocket in the front. I am backing away from him. He starts to walk away which is great except that he is walking in the direction of my apartment so I have no choice but to go the other way.

The first car I flag down doesn’t stop. Then a car pulls up to the red light and I ask them for a ride. So I hitch a ride with this guy to go half a block because I’m shaking and too scared to walk to my apartment unescorted. Then when I get in my apartment the bulb is burnt out and my Id says that somehow HE did this and he is there hiding.

I know this is ridiculous but I check under the bed, just to be sure there’s no bogeyman.