Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Roll Sound... Background Action...

For the past few weeks, San Francisco has been abuzz with movie talk. Gus Van Sant is in town making a biopic about Harvey Milk, the SF supervisor, and probably the first openly gay elected official in history, who was assassinated along with the mayor by another board member in 1978. Part of the history of gay liberation in the City is marches, protests, and celebrations in the streets. Hundreds of volunteers came out last week to recreate some of these mass events for the cameras, a good number of whom had participated in the actual events 30 years ago.

They'd restored the theater marquee, unrenovated store fronts, and parked 60s and 70s cars on the streets. After being introduced to some cast and crew (James Franco--swoon) and watching an earlier documentary about Milk, hundreds of extras filled the intersection of Castro and 17th, where bright lights were shining down from the rooftops on every side. They lit some shots with piercing smokey flares, making it seem dramatic even before the music is added.

There was also a lot of standing around, but it was pretty interesting seeing the movie-making process first-hand. And I got to see Sean Penn in a couple shots.

I found myself standing right next to Emile Hirsch, and saw gay icons Cleve Jones and Gilbert Baker. At one point Carrie Fisher even showed up to promote her one-woman stage show. Overall, a pretty cool thing to be a part of.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Allemande Left and a Right Left Grand

It's sort of ironic, coming from the rural midwest, that it's only in San Francisco that square dancing has become part of my life.  Every year there's a wildly popular dance at the Swedish American Hall in the Castro that we always attend.  It's full of midwest-transplant gays, geeks, and hipsters reveling in post-ironic pleasure.  It's part of the wintertime bluegrass and old-time festival that balances the summertime Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.  This year the band came from North Carolina and the caller did a great job of teaching a bunch of clueless Californians fast and getting us to do some sort of complicated seeming dances.

Friday, February 8, 2008


I noticed this former bank of telephones in an Oakland BART station. I forget that there used to be rows of pay phones in public places. The architects of this "modern" transportation center foresaw six people needing to talk on the phone at the same time, standing next to each other along the wall to do it. Now a single phone remains, with nobody using it. I wonder how they decided that the fifth phone should be the one that stayed. Did the other five get removed all at once, or were they phased out one at a time as demand decreased. Perhaps as they wore out or were vandalized, they just pulled them out instead of repairing them. How much longer till they get rid of the last remnant of the pre-cellular age, leaving just a mysterious row of unneeded metal panels?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Is 'HELO' an election anomaly?

You see reports of voter fraud even during these single-party primaries. Even though I can't really imagine anything fishy in Bernal Heights, since my polling place is literally on the other side of my block, I thought I'd go make a record of the polls opening at 7am. The last time I voted, I got there just at opening and thought it was a treat to witness everyone raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the constitution, the first voters being asked to verify that the ballot boxes were empty. The election workers were a very old lady, a middle-aged immigrant woman, and a teenaged girl. It was all presided over by an no-nonsense, in-charge dyke who was startlingly official and efficient. This Tuesday it went a little less smoothly, as the woman running things admittedly was doing it for the first time. She was concerned that the ballot reader, which read '0' on the back, was greeting us with a "hello" instead of saying '0' on the front as well. Whoever she called didn't think it was a problem, but who knows. Maybe a friendly election robot is how they lull us into letting our votes not be counted!