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Are You as Ungrateful This Thanksgiving as We Are? Let Us Know. - By sf-weekly-staff - November 23, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Are You as Ungrateful This Thanksgiving as We Are? Let Us Know.

There are many reasons to dislike Thanksgiving. It’s a day that will forever be associated with colonialism and the genocide and exploitation of Native peoples.

It is particularly troubling now to consider that fact as members of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota are fighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline that threatens their water supply and desecrates their ancestral lands. On Nov. 20, law enforcement officials even used fire hoses to drench hundreds of the demonstrators, many of whom had to be treated for hypothermia.

Oh yeah, Trump got elected president this month, too, and many of us who belong to the groups being targeted by his rhetoric — people of color, women, LGBT folks, Muslims, and others — can’t even make a real assessment of what we have to be grateful for because we fear that the rights we have worked hard to secure may be on the verge of being taken away.

This November, we’re saying, “No, thanks.” Read below for eight things we’re not grateful for this Thanksgiving. (Tell us what you’re fuming about at SFTalksBack@sfweekly.com.)

Channing Joseph is the editor-in-chief of SF Weekly

We’re Done With the Democratic Party

(Top Vector Studio)

I know it’s mean to kick someone when they’re down, but fuck the national Democratic Party.

Reduced to 30 out of 99 state legislatures and 17 of 50 governorships after this election, it’s now a rudderless hull, slowly drifting further out to sea. At least when the Republicans got their asses kicked in 2006 and 2008, they were reduced to an ideologically coherent core. We are not.

Yes, Hillary won the popular vote, and yes, Millennials are progressive enough that the future isn’t altogether bleak, but 2016 was supposed to be the election that revealed the GOP to be a crumbling edifice.

Instead, it’s been rejuvenated by xenophobic White supremacists — and the Democratic Party is in a state of advanced collapse. Its leaders are completely, congenitally incapable of grasping the totality of the worldwide populist revolt. It’s not just Donald Trump and Brexit that we face; it’s the residual Arab Spring, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Marine Le Pen in France. The globe is reacting against globalization’s cruel dictates to an extent that the left, which should have shepherded it, never anticipated. I don’t think Nancy Pelosi quite gets that, and Chuck Schumer definitely doesn’t.

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary, but I was never entirely comfortable with a white, male, senior-citizen, pro-gun semi-Democrat who hadn’t faced a tough race in 20 years and who seemed to regard all social issues as piddling distractions from income inequality. Sanders did better than he should have, but in this grim post-election reckoning, his candidacy must be the start — and he should step aside gracefully. New leadership is urgent, and it must be a maximally diverse coalition that vaults women, people of color, queer people, and Americans under 50 to the top on Day 1. The fight over specific public policy proposals to get the country out of this mess should begin only after that, not before.

Moreover, being an architect of neoliberalism who gives secret speeches to the world’s worst people should be a pretext for banishment, not an inside track to becoming the Democrats’ standard-bearer. We need fresh faces only. No dynasties, no nepotism — and definitely no Chelsea Clinton or Michelle Obama.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the rise of Rep. Keith Ellison, an African-American from Minneapolis who was the first Muslim elected to Congress, to chair the DNC. He will face vile attacks, and like all people of color in public view, he’ll have to thread the difficult needle of channeling anger without looking like he’s stoking it, all the while rebuilding things from the bottom.

Even if he succeeds, Ellison will have to contend with terrified Democrats scurrying to “the center” without putting up a fight on any issue for the foreseeable future. Because the Democrats are the party of principle-free reactionary cowardice coasting by on the hope that the other guys fuck up. So, until there’s some demonstrable change in the air, fuck the Democratic Party.

And, oh yeah, fuck the Republicans, too. — Peter Lawrence Kane is the arts editor at SF Weekly.

White Privilege Sucks

Toni Morrison, the African-American novelist and Nobel laureate, likes to say that “OK” is the first word that European immigrants to the United States learn. (It signifies willing submission to authority.)

The second word is “nigger.”

“When they got off the boat, … every immigrant knew he would not come as the very bottom,” Morrison explained. “He had to come above at least one group — and that was us.”

Take the Irish, for example. In the 1820s, when the first waves of Irish immigrants began to arrive, they were seen as undesirables and stereotyped in much the same way that Black people are today. Many job postings even declared: “No Irish need apply.”

Despite that, in 1853, at the height of American society’s antipathy for them, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass observed, “The Irish … are instantly taught when they step upon our soil to hate and despise the Negro.” (They were taught well, too: Many Irish vehemently opposed the abolition of slavery.)

Thus, with just a little hard work and dedication, eventually, as the scholar Noel Ignatiev points out, “the Irish became White.”

A related phenomenon is happening today as increasing numbers of Hispanics are changing their racial identification to “White” on census forms.

Of the 35 million people identified as being of “Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin” on the 2000 census, a net 1.2 million or so “changed their race from ‘some other race’ to ‘White’ between the 2000 and 2010 censuses,” according to The New York Times, which cited a Pew Research Center analysis.

But as some hunger to gain entrance into the edifice of Whiteness, those inside are looking back out anxiously. After eight years of a Black president, Whiteness appears to be losing its cachet.

Enter Donald Trump. The man whose company was sued by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent to Black tenants. The man who suggested that his supporters attack Black Lives Matter protesters. The man who propagated the racist notion that President Obama was not really an American. The man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Trump is now our president-elect, voted in by people caught in the grip of racial anxieties, about which some of them are obviously conflicted. As a result, I and many other people of color are forced into conversations in which White people who support Trump feel they must try to defend their indefensible choice.

“All this racist, sexist stuff … It’s just been hyped up by the media,” a White Trump supporter told Erika Smith, a Black writer at The Sacramento Bee. “You’ll see. I voted for him. Obamacare just needs to go.”

In a brilliant piece in the Nov. 21 issue of The New Yorker, Morrison provides perhaps the most eloquent summation yet of this moment in American life.

“White people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost,” she writes. “The comfort of being ‘naturally better than,’ of not having to struggle or demand civil treatment, is hard to give up. The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants — these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished. So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.”

Sadly, what I take away from the presidential election is that when their privilege is threatened, the majority of White Americans will do almost anything to hold onto it.

As I consider the likely ramifications of that, I feel disappointment, frustration, rage, resolve.

Gratitude, however, is nowhere to be found. — Channing Joseph

Kylie Jenner Sucks

(Joe Seer/Shutterstock.com)

Kylie Jenner is arguably the most famous teenager in the world. Not so arguably, she’s a terrible, terrible role model. Before the age of 18, Jenner had hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of plastic surgery on her face and her body, ostensibly to look exactly like her half-sister Kim Kardashian. Although she denies it, it’s pretty obvious if you look at photos from different dates that she had rhinoplasty, an eyebrow lift, a chin implant, breast implants, liposuction, and fat grafts in her butt.

Remarkably, the only “treatment” Jenner is willing to admit to are lip injections. Unfortunately, rather than being hailed as a freak of modern surgery, she’s considered the paradigm of beauty by most teenagers on the planet, many of whom made efforts to look like her in 2015 by partaking in the #KylieJennerChallenge. All over social media, teens posted videos and pictures of themselves sucking on shot glasses for extended periods of time so as to experience swelling that would give them lips equatable in size to Jenner’s. For many, the plan backfired and they were left with bruised or bleeding lips. Jenner has since capitalized on this trend, raking in millions of dollars for her overpriced Kylie cosmetics line, which consist of lip liners, lipsticks, lip glosses, and eye shadows.

The 19-year-old engages in other dubious behaviors that make her unfit to be an icon, such as her notorious, adulterous rapper boyfriend Tyga, whom she broke up with over infidelity issues earlier this year, but then reconciled with even though he’d already moved onto another girl by that point. Like others in her family — namely Khloe and Kim — Kylie is a big appropriator of Black culture and fashion, wearing do-rags, cornrows, wigs, and mouth grills. And she posts videos on Snap where she asks her curly-haired Black girlfriends if they like her naturally straight hair. The list of Jenner’s foibles could go on indefinitely, but suffice it to say, we, and especially the underage population of this world, would be much better off without her. — Jessie Schiewe is the music editor of SF Weekly.

Leave Vanilla Alone!


The world of food is full of awful terms: “mouthfeel,” “bean-to-bar,” “foodie,” “coffee program.” They’re P.R. constructs all, but the most egregious offense doesn’t come from the universe of marketing-speak.

It’s the abuse we mete out on the word “vanilla.” The word has become a synonym for boring and dull, and it’s just not fair.

Vanilla is one of the most complex flavors around. It’s a key note in bourbon. Its aroma is soothing and therapeutic. It’s more sophisticated and multivalent than cacao. In fact, without vanilla, chocolate chip cookies would be lifeless and one-dimensional. (I triple the recommended teaspoon to a tablespoon when I bake them.) Forever the Bert to chocolate’s Ernie in the popular imagination, vanilla is in reality a workhorse, a flavor potentiator, a catalyst for delight.

Even its history isn’t boring. Like so much of what is delicious, it spread globally — right around the same time as chocolate, in fact — through European conquest of Mesoamerica in the 1520s. To get it ready for human consumption, vanilla has to be harvested, dried, sweated, and then conditioned by sealing it in boxes for months to let the flavors manifest. That’s some goth shit right there.

And I kvetch about this as someone who, sexually speaking, isn’t the least bit “vanilla.” I like electro-play and I like temporary piercings and I like getting tied to a cross and flogged — but I love vanilla, too. The cognitive dissonance is hell!

Although I know such a campaign would be a futile gesture, I respectfully submit a substitute pejorative: beige. Beige is the worst. It’s the color of a cable-knit sweater worn by someone who wants to be invisible. It’s the color of holiday lights that neutralize the gaudiness of Christmas and suck out all the fun under the guise of being “tasteful.”

“Tasteful” will never hold a candle to “tasty,” and by all rights, “vanilla sex” should strike the ear as something really fun to experience. “Beige sex,” by contrast, sounds like what two half-alive people who each score “clammy” on a love tester do to one another other’s bodies without even a flush rising in their cheeks. (Make sure to pronounce “beige” a wan way, so that the first half rhymes with “meh” and not “hey.”)

And anyway, vanilla is a genus of orchid, and “orchid” comes from the Latin word for “testicle.” Vanilla is sexy, because vanilla is sex. — Peter Lawrence Kane


Use a Fucking Dog Leash, Gosh Darnit!


Look, I was you once, walking around the city with my furry little friend following behind me, mimicking every step, turn, and pause I made, and all without a leash. I felt lucky — and admittedly a bit superior — for having a pup who was so indelibly linked to me that she didn’t need to be confined by a stupid device to follow in my footsteps.

But that all changed the day the we were on a run and I suddenly heard the screech of tires behind me. Though my four-legged running partner had been steps behind moments before, she was now standing in the closest lane of the street. Turned out, she’d seen an oncoming dog and bolted in the opposite direction. While this was not normal behavior for her, the fact is, you never know what a dog is going to do no matter how long you’ve owned them, because dogs are creatures independent of you, with the ability to make their own decisions. And sometimes they’re dumb.

Had she been on a leash, she never would have made it off the sidewalk and accompanying patch of grass and into the street. But she did. Hold the tears though, because nothing bad happened: The oncoming car saw her and braked just in time, and because of that, my pooch is still very much alive and kicking today.

She now wears a leash whenever we leave the house — not because I don’t trust her allegiance in following me, but because I do not trust the things that we might encounter in this big, bad world. I see people in the streets of San Francisco all the time walking around with dogs sans leashes. And you know what? You don’t look cool. You just look negligent. Leashes are not hard to acquire, or you can just make your own! Just get a string, tie two loops on the ends, and voilà.

You never know what could happen out there. A car might see you but not your dog at a stop sign. Your pooch might cross the street too soon for it to be safe. Someone else’s canine might get loose and start chasing after your pup. There are so many possible scenarios that it’s best to just play it safe, because in the end, it is you who are responsible for your dog’s safety, not your dog. — Jessie Schiewe

UGH! Bay Area Public Transit


Bay Area public transit is a shit show. If you’ve never lived anywhere else, or if you drive everywhere, maybe you don’t realize how much of a shit show it is, but believe me, we should be embarrassed.

I was recently running to catch a Muni train when I heard a voice announce that a total of six elevators were out of order. The escalator at Powell Street is out of order nearly every day.

When I moved to San Francisco from New York, I was annoyed at first by the infrequency of trains; that ungodly screeching noise that the Muni trains make when someone gets caught in the doors as they are trying to make an exit; the insane length of time it takes to get anywhere (on BART or Muni); and, of course, the fact that all trains stop running by 1 a.m.

Then came the BART strike of 2013, which shut down the entire system for days at a time.

I tried to imagine something similar happening in New York City, but there were only two times such outages had occurred in my 10 years living there. One was during the blizzard of December 2010, when the entire city was forced to a halt by snow. (I remember waking up that morning and only being able to see the rooftops of cars under the blanket of ice.) Then there was Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Short of a natural disaster, the system basically runs all day every day — which definitely helps when you go out for drinks with friends.

Nothing of the kind can be said of BART or Muni.

But for a while I kept thinking to myself: Is it really so bad in the Bay Area, or am I just being persnickety?

Many American cities still don’t have any kind of public transit. I should feel grateful, right? Wrong.

In August, I went to Tokyo and saw what real public transit looks like.

The system is enormously complex, much larger even than New York’s, and yet the fast, glistening trains always run on time and are kept in immaculate condition.

In more than three weeks of traveling through Japan, and relying almost entirely on trains to get around, I saw not one elevator or escalator out of service. Not one.

The Bay Area is awash in tech riches. As much as we complain about traffic and fret about global warming, why have we not pulled together to invest in a truly modern public transportation system that actually works?

Channing Joseph


Raised Bike Lanes Are the Worst

As a radicalized cyclist fundamentalist — although one who also walks and takes transit and sometimes even drives — I’m all about making San Francisco as bike-friendly as humanly possible. Not for daily bike riders, but for people who would drive less or free up a little space on Muni if only cycling around town were a little less terrifying.

So I’m happy whenever we get newly striped bike lanes, green-painted lanes, contraflow lanes, bike-signal traffic lights, road diets, and (especially) protected lanes. “Tireless activists armed with data have been heard!” I think to myself whenever I see one. “Local government is working for the people and producing sensible policy solutions!”

But raised bike lanes are the worst.

OK, admittedly, sharrows are the worst, because they’re completely useless. But transportation advocates have moved way beyond painting bicycle ideograms on asphalt as some sort of magic talisman against collisions. Yet it’s raised bike lanes that have been presented as some aha! solution, the beneficent gift of a cycling nirvana just above the gutter. In reality, they’re a non-solution “solution” only an engineer staring at a screen could love, and they look pretty expensive.

As far as I’m aware, San Francisco has two raised lanes: inbound on Market between Gough and 12th streets, and on the southern end of Valencia. And they suck at their one job even though they’re painted spring green, as anyone who’s had to dodge an exiting Lyft passenger will tell you. Cars can and do climb right on them as if they weren’t there. Ride-hail drivers (or beer-delivery guys) don’t give a shit, and don’t have to, because only fully separated bike paths deter them. Worse, because they’re installed at a graceful slant — presumably so cyclists who go over the edges don’t fly off their rides into traffic — raising the lane and painting a white line alongside it shrinks its overall width. Losing even eight precious inches makes passing another cyclist that much more harrowing.

We’ve long since reached the point where the bike lanes up and down Valencia — raised or otherwise — are completely useless on nights and weekends. Priuses with Uber decals have transformed them into idling zones for their personal convenience. (A renegade band of safety guerrillas called SF Transformation, or SFMTrA, installed posts last month to keep everything separated, but the city removed them.) The only equitable way forward is to restripe the street entirely, maybe with both bike lanes running adjacent to one another on one side, or maybe by reversing things so that — visually separated! — bike lanes hug the curb and the parking lanes are adjacent to traffic.

But raising them four inches ain’t shit. — Peter Lawrence Kane

Ban Audience Sing-Alongs


People pay exorbitant amounts of money to come to concerts. We call these people — or at least most of them — fans, or acolytes, of the artists who are so invested in the artists’ work that they know every chorus, and perhaps even every word, to their songs. But does that mean that the rest of the audience wants to hear them sing the hook, to say, “Hotline Bling”? Ummm, no. As music editor, I’ve been to dozens upon dozens of shows in my lifetime — not to mention this year alone — and the number of musicians who rely on the collective voices of attendees to do their work for them never fails to amaze me.

Not that it’s the crowd’s fault for singing along to their favorite tune. It’s the fault of the artist who directs the mic at them. They are not trained musicians. You, the artist, are, and it is you who they paid money to see. So don’t be lazy and shirk your responsibility. If you need a breather, take one. Just don’t pull the microphone away from your mouth right when that much-anticipated line from your highest-charting song is about to hit.

Because the fact is, Beyoncé wouldn’t do that. She’d sing every damn word.

As if that isn’t bad enough, attendees might go into cardiac arrest at the end of the show if the audience thinks there’s even an inkling of a chance that you’ll play an encore. Lulled though you may be by the previous hour of soothing, melodic music, you will be instantly expelled from that bubble the moment the crowd starts maniacally clapping their hands, or, worse yet, stomping their feet. It will be loud, discordant, and jarring. Your eardrums will hurt and your bones will quiver. This is about the farthest you could get from an enjoyable live music experience, yet it’s the linchpin of most concerts. It’s also stupid as fuck. A polite, restrained one-minute round of applause should suffice to make it clear that the crowd wants to see the artist perform one last song.

If a band or artist wants to come back onstage after taking a break, they will. If they don’t, oh well. Pounding your feet and slapping your hands only makes you look dumb and barbaric. The artist already knows you like them, as evidenced by the fact that you bought a ticket and possibly some merch. No need to freak out or deafen those around you just to prove your point. Because in the end, the artist is going to what he or she wants to do, regardless of the noise you create. And you know what? You’ve just got to (quietly) deal with it. — Jessie Schiewe