Dog Bites

Take Out the Trash; Trouble in the 408?; Trouble in the 650; Even Fuzzier Math

Take Out the Trash

Even though we've only lived here long enough to be entitled to 52.5 percent of the civic pride a True San Franciscan is allocated, Dog Bites is determined to begin our stint as columnist on a positive note.

Or at least, a positive negative note.

Despite being a shamefully recent arrival, we do in fact love this place, which is why we hate what so many people do to it. (And no, we're not talking about hideous loft development South of Market; shockingly enough, not everything wrong with the city is caused by dot-complacency.) We refer to the city's litter problem.

In fact, it was in the course of being a provisionary San Franciscan -- sentenced to spend the first year or so of residence here dragging endless hordes of visiting friends and/or opportunistic acquaintances to Twin Peaks, Land's End, and Ocean Beach -- that we first confronted the strata of smashed beer bottles, fecal diapers, moldy dog crap, decaying fast-food leftovers, discarded chewing gum, flattened cigarette butts, rain-sodden wads of tissue, and even, once, a very used surgical dressing that covers so many of our city's open spaces, and that has since made us thoroughly unwilling to set foot in most of them. No kidding: We haven't been to the Sutro Baths since 1995.

Do we sound phobic? Fine -- we're phobic. But though sincerity is not often our public face -- and those of you already rolling your eyes and sighing are excused, and may skip ahead to the next item -- and though we're sure Supervisor Mabel Teng knows an opportunity to build political capital when she sees one, we would in fact like to throw our support behind Teng's suggestion, last week, of new legislation to try to address the city's truly vile garbage habit.

Of course, it would be nice if we could assume that the people who are always claiming newcomers like us can't truly appreciate San Francisco had never, ever tossed so much as an empty Starbucks cup away without bothering to make sure it went into a trash bin. Until such time as we can, though, we guess more laws will have to do.

Trouble in the 408?

Has anyone besides us noticed that the Golden Gate Bridge icon on the front page of the Mercury News' San Francisco edition has been gradually ... shrinking?

OK, maybe we have way too much time on our hands. But bear with us: Back when the Merc began using the bridge icon, it measured 3 7/16 inches wide by 1 inch high. Now, though, it's only 1 1/4 inches wide by 7/16 inches high -- or 84 percent smaller! Are the diminished bridge dimensions meant to more accurately reflect the actual size of the paper's San Francisco-related content? Though we tried and tried to reach someone -- anyone! -- at the Merc's San Francisco bureau who could answer this urgent question, inexplicably, nobody would call us back.

Then again, maybe the teeny-tiny bridge actually represents dwindling morale at the Merc. Monday morning, staff at the allegedly tech-savvy paper accidentally posted a phony story to the Merc's live Web site about former Merc tech and business reporter Dave Wilson's recruitment by the L.A. Times. The piece was headlined: "As Dave Wilson heads south to the City of Angels, the Mercury News remains puzzled."

The story began, "Why on earth is he doing this? Why isn't he content to cover the latest permutation in the Microsoft antitrust case, which threatens to go on for another five years or so? What's wrong with living in a hovel near the tracks in Mountain View?

"What's the attraction of being the lead personal-technology columnist at the biggest newspaper west of New York City, in one of the two capitals of media in the entire world?

"And why would he move to a place where he could afford to buy a house?"

Of course, it's hardly news that the Merc has had trouble attracting and retaining staff; the paper, after all, can't exactly match the salaries offered by dot-coms and other local -- we mean that in the Santa Clara County sense, of course -- high-tech entities.

Personal Technology section editor Guy Lasnier says the story had been written as a joke, as part of Wilson's going-away festivities a couple of weeks ago. "He left on great terms," says Lasnier. "He got a great opportunity in L.A. as lead columnist for [the L.A. Times'] new personal technology section."

How did the story end up on the live site? "That I don't know," says Lasnier. "That's a good question."

... And Trouble in the 650

Naturally, we've got an update on Kevin "Nestor Makhno" Keating's legal problems; our favorite Mission-based yuppie-hater is, after all, a topic of perennial interest to our readers. So here goes: Keating has a court date in Redwood City at the end of the month, but is only facing one charge of being drunk and disorderly.

Meanwhile, one of Dog Bites' friends has stepped forward to confess to his own role in Keating's arrest. Our friend, who -- quel coincidence! -- was on the same Air France flight, was seated under a ceiling panel that began dripping cold water on him shortly after takeoff. He complained to a steward, who boredly handed him two paper cocktail napkins. Disgruntled, our friend demanded a different seat and, when new arrangements weren't forthcoming, launched into a series of complaints of escalating bitterness, drama, and, erm, expressiveness -- "Air France m'encule!"* being one example of his observations on the circumstances.

*No, Dog Bites is not going to translate this.

Eventually, he was reseated, though he claims that for the remainder of the flight the stewards made a point of glaring at him whenever they passed. "My tirade may well have set the flight attendants on edge a bit, so they reacted more harshly [to Keating's behavior]," he theorizes. Indeed, though he was witness to Keating being borne, struggling, first class-ward, he even evinces sympathy for the beleaguered activist: "I agree with his quote in the Chronicle -- the wine sucked."

Dreadful syrahs aside, we do have one clarification to make: Chron editor Trapper Byrne writes, "Hey, we never said old KK posted bail after his flight on Lost Horizon airline [as Keating claimed the paper had; Dog Bites neglected to point out this was not accurate]. We just said he was cited."

Dog Bites regrets many, many aspects of our personality.

Even Fuzzier Math

Now that we're trying to put more actual facts into our column, nobody will give us any. "Information wants to be free," we remember people saying a few years back; of course, those same people were also assuring everybody they could create a viable business model for content on the Web, so perhaps we shouldn't have been so quick to believe them. Still, it could be worse -- we could have bought stock in Salon.

But you try calling Ted Fang. All we want to know is how many staffers he's managed to hire for the Fangxaminer; after a week's worth of phone calls, we have achieved a total of one voice-mail callback from his assistant.

So we're just going to have to find out some other way -- in this case, by taking a survey. Please e-mail Dog Bites and tell us whether or not you've been hired by the Fangs. We'll total the responses, measure them against the Weekly's readership as a percentage of the Bay Area's total population, extrapolate a likely sounding number from the result, and print it in a future edition of this paper.

Watch this space!

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