About Us

Contact Us

VOLUME 1, NUMBER 34    <>  MONDAY, AUGUST 28, 2000

this & that

Walk this way.  A postcard from Jean Dierkes-Carlisle, penned in the Caffé Trieste: "Sidewalk obstruction is a completely unaddressed problem in North Beach, especially on Grant Avenue and some stretches of Columbus, oversaturated with outdoor tables, waiters, diners, skateboards, scooters, and worst of all, young adults in clusters, oblivious to those of us who live in the neighborhood and anyone trying to navigate the streets without walking in the gutter. The homeless of North Beach do not obstruct the sidewalks."

Block that metaphor. What slippery stuff is the English language! Last week this space contained a reference to "Our Mayor’s fine Italian hand in a recent Planning Department proposal" about the Sunset. Having spent several youthful years practicing the ancient art of calligraphy, I had in mind a red-robed Venetian nobleman holding a quill pen, penning an elegantly worded message that would destroy his enemies without striking a single physical blow. Sound like the style of someone close to home? But a phone call from a reader raised another interpretation. Why, the voice asked, are the Italians always singled out as the bad guys? We’re not all members of the Mafia, you know.

Perhaps Paul Hofman, New York Times bureau chief in Rome and longtime observer of things Italian, should serve as arbiter: "The penmanship of Italian Renaissance scribes and copyists before printing became generalized — their ‘fine Italian hand’ — was admired throughout Europe; Western handwriting as taught to first-graders today developed from 14th-century Florentine cursive, a pencraft for speedily copying ancient manuscripts. The phrase 'fine Italian hand' has long meant the particular way Italians like to do things, preferring adroitness to sheer force. Although the expression originally was a tribute to proverbial dexterity, ironical overtones suggesting manipulation and craftiness can now be detected whenever the ‘fine Italian hand’ is mentioned." Mea culpa. Next time I’ll stick to "Machievellian."

Budgeting for peace. It’s a matter of simple math, says Andy Sekara of San Francisco Progressive Challenge (415 333-2736), a network that brings scholars, researchers, and activists together to brief policymakers. "The defense budget for the year 2001 is $310 billion dollars. This ‘Cold War’ budget is 20 times more than all the nations considered a threat to our security — Libya, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea. If we could cut this defense budget by 35 percent (and this would not endanger the safety of our country), it would deliver to us a peace dividend of about $108 billion dollars." On September 23 more than 20 organizations intend to put their mouths where their money is, convening a blue-ribbon roster of speakers including Rear-Admiral Eugene J. Carroll, Jr. and San Francisco’s own Calvin Welch to discuss issues of military and peaceful spending. The occasion is a Congressional Forum on Redefining National Security; the place is the Clark Kerr Campus in Berkeley.

Fighting the political blahs. Each day candidates manage to put new spins on worn-out practices. Are you tired of the Republican/Democratic same-old same-old? asks Starchild ( 415 626-3036), a Libertarian candidate for State Assembly in the 13th District. Help to force open up the debates by registering with a third party, he suggests. "Even if the votes go to the Democrats and Republicans in the end, reregistering will take away the guarantee of power and increase the number of choices at debates and in the voting booth." And can’t you imagine the looks on the pollsters’ faces when they try to explain the new configuration?  <><><> Marc Salomon, candidate for supervisor in District 6, applies the miracles of cybercraft to an age-old sure-fire winner. His website contains a proposal — "Require lobbyists to wear red clown noses when lobbying City officials" — and a familiar face to practice on.