Dog Bites

The Great Unread, Part XIV or So
Judging by the wild success of our Don Johnson poll (see last item), the key to boosting Dog Bites' popularity is reader participation. So, while wracking our tiny brains to come up with another poll, contest, anything, we were thrilled to come across a package from our local boon to remainder tables everywhere -- no, no, not Chronicle Books.

Let us pause to say that if there's one thing more annoying than a book from Chronicle, it's a book from HarperSanFrancisco. At least many Chronicle books have a certain furtive entertainment value, especially those that fall into a category that might best be described as home design pornography. (And just to avoid any future accusations of conflict of interest, Dog Bites will confess here to owning a copy of Diane Dorrans Saeks' Living Rooms [Chronicle Books, 1997]. It was sort of an impulse buy, OK? And, um, the section on ambient vs. task lighting is actually pretty useful.)

But HarperSanFrancisco! The publisher's entire catalog seems to consist of New Age mooniness, multiculti collections of wise thoughts sprinkled one or two to a page through long dreary paperbacks that you could only imagine someone enjoying if he or she had, perhaps, the chance to read aloud a selection from one of them over a communal dinner consisting largely of the brown rice, spinach, and cheddar casserole from Recipes for a Small Planet, after which reading other members of the party might murmur "Right on," or possibly brush away a few tears.

And even then everyone concerned would have to be living somewhere far, far up Lucas Valley Road, in a house featuring an algae-stained fiberglass geodesic dome and a never-quite-functional solar heating system.

A perfect example of the HarperSanFrancisco publishing aesthetic is the company's latest release, Prayers for a Thousand Years: Blessings and Expressions of Hope for the New Millennium. Of course, the book is in the same sanctimoniously eclectic vein as all HarperSanFrancisco's other books, with contributions from all the usual suspects: the Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson (will that woman ever just go away?), Starhawk, and so on. The lucky thing -- from the publisher's perspective, anyway -- is that no matter how many of these volumes HarperSanFrancisco publishes, it will never run out of material to excerpt for them. Because right now, in creative writing workshops all across the land, people are writing poetry just like this:

The Buddha got enlightened
Under a tree

Saw the morning star

And touched the earth
As witness

In the next millennium
Which is right now

All of us
Will recognize
We too
Are Buddhas

And will
Plant more trees
Deep in the earth...

Of course, the poem/prayer goes on from there, but we'll leave it to our readers to seek out the further work of "author and editor" Rick Fields, should they feel compelled to do so.

Here's our pitch: Write a poem hailing the new millennium -- and remember, it should be both stickily heartwarming and include a lot of groveling before our mother the Earth for having defiled her with concrete and so on -- and send it to Dog Bites. We'll publish the, um, best of these submissions in our next column and send the winner a copy of Prayers for a Thousand Years. Steven Appleton is cordially invited to enter, despite his status as Dog Bites' Poet Emeritus.

Babies, Grannies: Fuck 'Em! This Is the New San Francisco
Normally Dog Bites buys trashy fashion magazines as an escape, a passport to a fantasy land in which every deserving girl has cute little Miu Miu mules and a wardrobe of 12 to 15 swimsuits. So we were distressed to open this month's Marie Claire to find -- no, not those pink Genny cargo pants, which, heaven knows, are bad enough -- but a story titled, "I Evict People Who Can't Pay Their Rent," about one Lea Santos, who works as a property manager for Sansome Pacific Properties here in the city.

Santos, who says her employers have fondly nicknamed her the Terminator, brags about her savvy in using the Owner Move-In Eviction Act: "I personally bought a condo for myself. It was being rented at the time, so I had to evict a married couple with an infant before I could move in. They left quietly, but technically, they could have fought me. Most people don't know their rights, but I sure as heck am not going to teach them! They should have done their homework. I did."

What a sweetheart!
A few paragraphs later, she shares another charming anecdote: "There was an elderly woman who slipped and fell at one of my buildings, and the first thing that popped into my head was, 'Damn, I'm going to get sued!' So I took her out to breakfast and I was very sweet. ... In the midst of [the] conversation, I said, 'This is a form my attorneys want you to sign which releases us, because you are feeling better, aren't you?' ... She just signed. It saved me a lawsuit. Did I take advantage of her? Probably. For a brief moment I thought, 'That was kind of mean, wasn't it?' "

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