By Chris Roberts
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Sticks and Stones; or, A Rare Moment of Lucidity
Dog Bites' dad, who spends a certain amount of time composing extremely cutting letters to the editor (not, fortunately, of this publication, or we'd probably be out of a job), will in conversation occasionally begin a sentence, "When I'm dictator of this country ...."
We mention this because some recent correspondents seem to be suggesting that Dog Bites is not doing enough, personally, to repel the dot-com invasion. "If you're not going to put any effort into dot-com bashing, you should just let it go," writes Matt Fisher, in an otherwise charming note (thanks for the comment about our "funny obsessions" ... we think). "When I walk to work, I pass that pathetic sticker campaign, blowthedotoutyourass.com or whatever, and I wonder, is this the best they can do? We're talking about people who buy $800,000 lofts in the Mission, park SUVs across two parking spaces, and say things like 'Sushi Groove rocks!' while waiting in line for a bread salad. And all you can think to come back with is dot-conformists? Come on Dogbites, you're better than that."
Now, when Dog Bites is dictator of this country, there will be no SUVs, but we're not exactly making our career plans around that eventuality. Although when you think about it, we could do a lot of good. For instance, we'd institute a lottery system for people who want to write opinion columns, and make publicists register with the local police when they move, and give SETI a whole bunch of money, just because aliens are cool! And we'd make Muni run on time.
But the idea that dot-coms are the worst problem San Francisco faces is, well, how can we put this tactfully? We think the word we're looking for is ludicrous.
Sure, Dog Bites has taken our share of shots at the dot-commers -- or, more accurately, at the culture to which they've contributed. And God help us, it's fun. Composing cutting commentary on the dot-coms' mores and habits is nastily satisfying; it's like when you were in high school and you and your friends used to roll your eyes at Kristi Mitchell's tight pink jeans and white boots. Sure, she was the most popular girl in school. But youhad that Cramps album with the 3-D cover and had been to several all-ages shows.
However, while many of us enjoy and even cherish the belief that we are much cooler than the dot-coms, and can certainly share a cheap laugh at the expense of, say, the striving newly vested who move into $2.3 million houses with hardwood floors, 12-foot ceilings, and front rooms lined in graceful old built-in bookshelves, which now hold nothing but a collection of Dean Koontz paperbacks, The Fountainhead, and two workout videos -- well, is that actually going to make a difference in real estate prices?
As that example and Mr. Fisher's note reveal, it's awfully hard to criticize the dot-coms on more than the particulars. The complaints against them, when examined, boil down to points that are not merely obvious and petty but actually boring: The dot-commers have done well for themselves, in many cases not out of tremendous talent but because they were and are smart enough to get into the right business. And often, they're new to the place and so focused on their work, and their small circle of peers, that they have little concept of life in the city beyond.
Naturally, some longtime San Franciscans find this galling. People shouldn't move here because they want to make money. They should move here to, uh, paint! Or write! Or get multiple piercings and dance at the Lusty Lady while formulating an entirely new dialectic for discourse on feminist sexuality!
Now, let us ignore, for the sake of argument, the many people who have lived here for years -- possibly even the 10 required for citizenship in our city-state -- and who work at dot-coms because, to understate it greatly, there are lots of jobs in those businesses. Let us ignore the fact that a demonstrably wide variety of people work at dot-coms. (Memo to self: Am now agreeing with Jon Carroll. Clearly time to cut down on the meds.) And let us also ignore the fact that if things keep going the way they're going, more and more of the people now complaining about dot-coms will end up working for them, being coopted, and doing well themselves, which, if they're honest, is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
In fact, let us pretend that everyone who works for a dot-com is 25, newly wealthy, unfailingly annoying in social situations, a reckless driver, the owner of a Land Rover Discovery, an obnoxious drunk, a displacer of a large and deserving family of native-born San Franciscans, looks bad in leather pants but insists on wearing them anyway, and an uncultured blowhard.
What, exactly, is Dog Bites supposed to do about it?
We could, of course, launch a campaign encouraging people to smash the windows of expensive new cars seen parked in their neighborhoods, to vandalize restaurants catering to an upscale clientele, and to spray paint "Yuppies Out" on loftominium developments. But the last guy who did that found the SFPD was less than amused by his personal philosophy of direct action, and though he continues to get a certain amount of attention from the German media, looking around us a year later we can't say he was effective. Like, at all.
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