About Us

Contact Us



Angus Love, Pennsylvania-style homeland security


Jeremy Brecher & Tim Costello, Collateral damage: Neo-liberalism, October 17, 2001


graph ed1.jpg (750303 bytes)

two cents worth

Public power for San Francisco?

The kindness of strangers

I dreamed of Francis Ford Coppola. All night we wrangled, discussing not the merits of The Godfather, not the subtleties of The Conversation, but the reason for a generally overlooked failure.

In the mid-1970s Coppola started up a little San Francisco publication called, appropriately, City Magazine. It was a splendid little weekly, employing Warren Hinckle in what was perhaps his finest hour. The news stories were not only timely; they were as snappily written as a good movie script. The art was innovative and well reproduced. History and fiction stood on a par with current events, all presented with panache — on newsprint, not slick city-mag stock.

And it flopped.

Coppola blamed its demise on our parochialism, suggesting that we just weren’t up to the kind of fare he was offering. Maybe we weren’t. Or maybe he just looked in the wrong direction for support.

It was, oddly, Our Mayor’s State of the City address that triggered my apocalyptic dreams, with its call for a revival of regional tourism to stimulate San Francisco faltering economy. Play tourist at home? There’s something contradictory about the concept. Home is where you know your neighbors, where you enjoy the comforts of familiarity. Tourists thrive on the strange. And they only stay a few days before moving on.

If we are really interested in rebuilding the economy of San Francisco — and self-interest, if nothing else, says we must be — it seems far more sensible to start with what is still strong and build on that. And San Francisco’s strengths still lie in its neighborhoods. As a starter, we might visit local shops instead of traveling across town to a department store. Walk down to the restaurant on the corner instead of fighting traffic. Over the weekend, hang out for an hour or two at a nearby park, just to see who and what’s there.

It’s tiny steps like these, millions of them, that weave together a network of social security, a solace we desperately need at a time when our leaders are sending out messages of disturbing confusion. But be warned: Steps like these not only contrast with the grandiose gestures of national and international events; they may even undermine them.

During World War II, one of Japan’s leading novelists wrote a book that might have come from the pen of Jane Austen, introducing readers to the a middle-class family trying to find suitable husbands for its daughters. The military government banned “The Makioka Sisters,” arguing that soldiers would be reluctant to leave for the front with such an inviting image of home in their heads.

It’s an interesting puzzle, how to foster the subversions of home. The process may involve turning an old adage on its head: thinking locally and acting globally. Instead of giving the forest precedence over the trees, it may make more sense to emulate the wise forester who understands the ecology of his surroundings because he knows every single poplar and maple. It may mean abandoning traditions of competition for new patterns of collaboration.

To this end, the Call has decided to offer free advertising space to local businesses and organizations. And in the weeks to come, our coverage will expand to include more local items, not simply for their own delightful details but because of what they reveal about the city as a whole.

This city has a great many wonderful trees. The Call will travel, for example, to Bernal Heights, where residents propose to lay out butterfly garden at the southeast end of Precita Park, essentially setting up opposing turf to the hotly contested area where the dogs hang out. We will share the hopes — and the apprehension — of Excelsiorites at the sale of the long-vacant Apollo Theater.

In return, we will ask a favor of you, the readers.

Think about it for a minute: The Call is a free paper. And it should be. But free papers generally derive their revenue from advertisements.

We will, in a variety of ways, approach you for financial support. And if you think that this is a worthwhile venture, we hope that you will be generous with your checks or cash.

But even more important, we seek ideas. How can we build a true city newspaper that fosters local businesses rather than straining their resources, that is available to everyone — and that can pay its bills?

Thank you kindly.

Betsey Culp (bculp@sfcall.com)