Dog Bites

We Read Jon Carroll Wannabes, So You Don't Have To
We felt a little guilty when it emerged that Jon Carroll had suddenly gone on vacation. Had we hurt his feelings with our inaugural "Last Week in Jon Carroll"? Well, no matter -- the man is paid more than we can ever hope to make, and helping readers evade dullness in print is a Dog Bites imperative.

The designated hitters replacing JC last week proved that driveling on about one's Boomer Angst, Carroll-style (oh, those mortgage payments!) is a contagious ailment. To sum up all the vital or interesting facts and thoughts contained in a week of substitute columns:

Monday, June 8
Gerald Nachman
Being referred to as a senior is vaguely upsetting.

Tuesday, June 9
Rebecca Koffman
(Special note: Something clearly slipped, as this was actually an interesting column. Keep up the good work, Rebecca, but please, not at the Chron.)

Wednesday, June 10
Marlene Fridley
Monica Lewinsky gives people something to talk about.

Thursday, June 11
John Louthan
Old sleeping bags get smelly.

Friday, June 12
Rebecca Robinson
Being a new mother can be tiring.

We Go to the AAN Conference, So You Don't Have To
Even the alternative press has a trade group. And just to let everyone know how creative and edgy we alt.weekly hipsters are, that group goes by this name: the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Or AAN. (Tip from Dog Bites: When pronounced aloud, the acronym does not rhyme with "yawn"; to properly pronounce AAN, start with the word "bland," and take something away.)

At any rate, AAN has a national journalism contest, and we won stuff. SF Weekly contributor and general hell-raiser Peter Byrne took first place in the business reporting category for his story "The Great Bank Thievery," an in-depth look at allegations that Bank of America cheated California governments out of hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars. The judges for the category -- who work at The New Republic, Forbes, The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, the Left Business Observer, and other way-important news organizations -- said Byrne "tells the story well, and makes what could be a lot of obscure financial arcana clear to the civilian reader."

And in the film writing/criticism category, Weekly film critic and all-around icon Michael Sragow won second place for "City of Angles," his look at L.A. Confidential. The judges (from Slate, the L.A. Times, and other publications that would impress you, if Dog Bites could remember their names) called Sragow's article a "knowledgeable, informative piece that offers insights into both the specific film and the broader genre." (First place in the category went to a writer for City Pages, a Minnesota weekly.)

Dog Bites would have graciously listed the Bay Guardian's awards here. If there had been any.

Cultural Shorthand
Dog Bites is used to seeing giant, off-kilter X's on billboards around the city -- ads for the highly anticipated X-Files movie. But just this morning, we did a double take when we saw, instead of an X, a Z.

Blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight, we finally realized that, although the Z also appeared in red on a black background, it was an advertisement for a completely different movie -- this one the not-especially-highly-anticipated Zorro.

But if that's all we're getting, how do we decide which movie we'll see? Which letter is more compelling?

We tried calling the Children's Television Network in New York, producers of Sesame Street, to ask whether people seemed to prefer X to Z -- or vice versa. Oddly, they did not return our calls. So we were forced to make our own comparisons, which follow:

Obviously, X is the edgier letter.

Cultural Great Satan
Adam Smith once derided England as "a nation of shopkeepers," but it looks as though the Brits may have to hand that dubious title over to the United States.

At the end of June, Canada will host the world's first international cultural summit. Forty countries, including most of Europe, will attend, but the U.S. isn't even invited. The reason: The United States doesn't have a minister of culture.

"When Washington was asked to send its equivalent of a culture minister, it said it did not have one but preferred to send a senior trade representative," reported the Vancouver Sun. "Canada said no."

The meeting will focus on how nations can protect their cultures, which are threatened by the pervasive U.S. entertainment industry.

Although the summit has attracted no attention whatsoever here, north of the border there has been much introspective hand-wringing. Canadians, it seems, are worried that the usually polite and retiring Canada might be seen as inciting other countries to "gang up" against the States.

"Only in Canada would a meeting organized by a country of 30 million people be characterized as ganging up on a country of 250 million," retorted Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, who is organizing the conference.

"One of the issues [the U.S.] has on their agenda is obviously culture, although they don't call it that," she added. "They call it business."

From the National Desk: Yet More Cultural News
Sure, Colma is the City of the Dead. But we bet you didn't know that Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the City of Funerals. Or that it earned that nickname when 150 victims of the Titanic sinking were buried there in ceremonies that went on from May 3 to June 12 of 1912. Or that one of the people interred at the Fairview Cemetery is a J. Dawson.

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