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eNewsletter #11, November 2000

eNewsletter #11, November 2000


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READING IN BED, INCLUDING DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF AND DASHIELL HAMMETTOctober was flu month at RE/Search, and the only good thing about illness is: it grants guilt-free license to read, including books not necessarily part of the next publishing project. I know, I should have gone to see our miracle-worker acupuncturist-herbalist Dr. Wilson Szeto (he has healed almost all of our friends, and has a special tea to zap incipient flu. Dr. Szeto emigrated from China around 1976, but was not able to practice as an M.D. here for obvious licensing restrictions. Everyone should have a Dr. Szeto in their life!

On the reading list– actually, the RE-reading list– were the five novels of Dashiell Hammett (did you know that morphine used to be freely available in San Francisco drugstores?), Douglas Rushkoff’s CYBERIA– if you haven’t read this book, you couldn’t possibly have a comprehensive understanding of the ’90s, with its emerging raves, ensuing Dot-con Gold Rush (now thankfully over), IPO mania, ballistic Internet ultrahype, and the ruination of San Francisco’s rents forever. Rushkoff is one of the very few “good guys” left who is definitely on “our” side; every book and interview by him is worth tracking down.

Also read carefully Rushkoff’s COERCION, a very dense and compacted treatise on cult mind control, techniques of advertising, marketing and “branding”– it deserves at least two readings. Frankly, both volumes are full of somewhat “subversive” insights, and I think the only way he got them published (by a mainstream corporate, of course) is to end with somewhat “sell-out” final chapters containing some conclusions I for one ignored. After all, Rushkoff still makes money consulting for the “enemy,” and he walks a fine line between launching his ballistic missiles against them while still paying the rent with money they give him. Well, everyone’s gotta eat– if you don’t eat, you don’t write. I’ve vowed to track down Rushkoff’s Media Virus, which I missed, and devour it soon.

Make no mistake, we’re in a full-fledged corporate mind-control war; it’s definitely US vs. THEM, and the fewer corporate memes infecting our consciousness, the better. Remember, the average American now can recognize something like 5,000 brands– that’s far too much junk “dis-information” clogging up our brainstems, medullas oblongatas, et al. Twenty years ago we at RE/Search were among the first to use in print the term “information overload,” and that’s exactly the state all of us are in– we’re drowning in too much information, images, soundbites– all those corporate, mainstream-values movie tapes are running amok in our heads, making us want thousands of products we don’t need and making us treat other people as “things.”

We all need a vacation somewhere beyond the reach of a Coca Cola logo. And what we can all do is (thanks, Nix, for the suggestion) is: go on a regular 3-day media fast– no television, radio, canned music, magazines; no Internet, no reading. Just sit home and write, draw or paint or make your OWN music. Well, forget it– that’s almost impossible, isn’t it? I look forward to a world where there are NO brands or advertisements anywhere, no corporations, no military, and everyone inherits a house as soon as they’re born– most housing on the planet has long been paid for. And remember, 350 years ago America’s land wasn’t owned by the mostly white people who claim to own it now and back up their ownership by the police and the army, who are funded by our taxes. Well, Dream on.

It still might be true that the best things in life are free: friendship, love, dinners cooked by friends, all-night conversations, and the rare spell-binding live music or performance event that is still “underground.” Who wants to attend ANYTHING that takes place in a stadium or an enormous venue? Who wants ANYTHING to do with anything mainstream? And who wants to pay $45 for some rock concert, even if all the Olympian goddesses and gods are promised in attendance?


October was notable for four free events we attended, and here we apologize for not publicizing any of the public ones in advance. The first was Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s opening night show of about 37 paintings and a wonderfully sly assemblage “sculpture”– my favorite work, titled “Love In the Days of Rage” at the George Krevsky gallery, 77 Geary St. Everyone who attended not only got the usual wine and cheese in the company of a number of San Francisco notables, but also a free, recently released book titled What Is Poetry? by Lawrence, courtesy of the publisher Donald S. Ellis who was our host. The show is over already, but watch for Lawrence’s work around town: on the menu at Rose Pistola, in the Italian Museum at Fort Mason …

Ferlinghetti is definitely no prude, and he celebrates the nude human body with vigorous and colorful slashing strokes of approbation. He’s been painting a long time, and right after World War II he studied painting in Paris for a few years before returning to America and helping to launch the Beat Generation. Amusingly enough, he did confide that the worst thing about being a painter is occasionally being forced to be around these “high society” gallery habitues, a few of which were three feet away in their designer clothes and Hermes scarves. Having been born in 1919, Lawrence is over eighty now, and still has a trim figure despite regularly indulging in �red wine and good Italian pasta. No, we don’t want to see the “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Diet Book,” but still, there’s some kind of behind-the-scenes alchemy going on. He goes swimming at the Embarcadero YMCA, and walks regularly– that probably helps.

I recall the meals I shared with William S. Burroughs, during which he would eat only just a forkful each of mashed potatoes, meat, salad, and vegetables– and after each bite, he would say “Delicious!” in his trademark nasal delivery. But he only ate about one bite of each course. Somewhere Burroughs wrote about having a dread of getting fat, and cutting one’s quantitative intake is definitely one way of negating the inevitable– after age 28, most people gain about a pound a year. But for most of us mortals, reduced input diets don’t work. Various friends like filmmaker Jon Reiss (who directed Better Living Through Circuitry, a rave documentary, as well as early SRL videos) have had luck with entirely cutting out wheat– nothing else. Our sinewy 65-year-old friend, filmmaker Mindy Bagdon, cut out all butter and dairy– that worked for him. However, in the real world working a real job, the above is “challenging”–to say the least.


The next free event we attended was the Wammies at the Great American Music Hall (a San Francisco art nouveau landmark), sponsored by the S.F Weekly, This particular and exceptional October 7 event was orchestrated by Weekly columnist Silke Tudor, and Alan Parowski of Liftoff! SpaceCapades Productions. In the past two to three years a zeitgeist has reasserted itself; the ghost spirit of burlesque has reincarnated, despite the prevailing poisonous miasma of hatchet-faced feminism spawned by all the Andrea Dworkins, Camille Paglias and lesser-known viragos spreading their hateful, joyless and exclusionary propaganda in vituperative media everywhere. We were treated to genuine French Can-Can and Sixties Go-Go-Girl artful burlesque, thanks to the Fishermen’s Old Time Burlesque Revue with The Cantankerous Lollies (7 dynamite damsels in undress), the 17-piece, horned, naughty-and-nice Devil-Ettes, Eddie Dane’s virtuosic Dames Burlesque (love that rootin’, tootin’ cowgirl Trish), plus Stinky’s Peep Show Large and Lovely Go-Go Girls. Admittedly, we glimpsed fetching female flesh, including aureolae. (I’m looking forward to seeing the Velvet Hammer of Los Angeles, reportedly the pioneers of this welcome new “women’s movement”– in more ways than one.)

These days it’s rare to see something you haven’t seen before, and I was duly impressed when, in the upstairs balcony, an exceptionally beautiful performer from Stinky’s Peep Show secured not only a laptop computer, but a 3″ thick Yellow Pages under her massive, bared mammary glands. No, the objects did not fall to the ground. And yes, surpassingly good free food and drinks were served, plus a bagful of free CDs and other gifts– admittedly, from corporate sponsors. I actually liked the free Squirrel Nut Zippers CD. I almost forgot to mention the comedians, all of whom I greatly enjoyed (sorry, didn’t catch their names), the brief appearance of Shitty Shitty Band Band and Barbee Killed Kenn (spelling changed under threat of lawsuit), the amazing a capella rap demo by– was it Q-Bert and friends?, and the live music set by Persephone’s Bees, an Oakland band featuring Russian-born, pixie-ish vocalist Angelina Moysov, who intriguingly incarnates Carnaby Street 1965. Other guests of honor included The Millionaire (ex-Combustible Edison), Russell Scheidelman (Organ and Bongoes magazine), Byron Werner (musicologist), Dirk Dirksen from the fabulous Mabuhay Gardens, film historian Will the Thrill and actress Monica, and Zigaboo Modeliste, one of my favorite drummers of all time, now a Bay Area resident (from New Orleans).


The following Saturday, October 14, Baby Doe Dorinda was wedded in highest dudgeon to the shaven-headed Otto Von Stroheim (of Tiki News scholarship) in the first and only Tiki Wedding Ceremony we’ve ever attended. The festivities began around 6 PM at the Swedish-American Hall (above the Cafe Du Nord on Market Street at Noe). Upon arriving we were greeted by an experienced ukelele master in tropical clothing, singing a naughty song from our not-so-distant Fifties past. Upon reaching the upstairs level, each guest was bedraped with a Hawaiian-style necklace (a few important guests, like the groom, sported fresh gardenia leis direct from Hawaii). We proceeded onward to the tropical punch bowls, and from thence to an amazing Hawaiian-Islandic buffet, with music provided by a first-rate musical saw artist in a white suit, Jamie Barton (, accompanying himself with a portable 78 record player.

Upon entering the main room, each guest was photographed with a polaroid camera and encouraged to inscribe an appropriate tribute to the bride and groom in a leather keepsake volume. By the way–not a diminutive detail–all the rooms had been redecorated with elaborate Trader Vic’s tiki-style d�cor which not so long ago could be seen at tiki restaurants across America. (Visit Trader Vic’s in Emeryville before it disappears!) Quite a job! And fortunately, at least 90% of the guests had clothed themselves in exceptionally vibrant tropical or vintage clothing. The result: probably the most amazing and colorful group of people on the planet all in one room, that night. (Mercifully, as in a fantasy escape from reality, we saw no Dotzi’s in Dockers and blue shirts, and no cell phones in use.) And the music: have you ever heard “Hear Comes the Bride” played on a lap-steel guitar by Frank Novicki? Two bands, an offshoot of the Fishermen, plus the Tiki-Tones from Los Angeles, played Martin Denny-style and Sixties Au-Go-Go music while intoxicated (in more ways than one) celebrants danced the night away. Oh, there was an additional full-fledged “exotica” dinner served after the wedding, featuring many flavors from the Tropics and distant lands, such as ultra-delicious Thai pumpkin curry. As we left, we were handed complimentary tiki-foil-wrapped dark or white chocolate bars (where do you find those?!). A more perfect and magical wedding can hardly be imagined, and the exchanging of vows (no cliches here, either; it was a truly feminist ceremony in the best sense of the word under the direction of Mr. Lucky, who ended the ceremony by breaking into song) brought tears to more than a few people’s eyes. We certainly hope there will be more “tiki weddings” in the future.


The final free event we attended was by invitation of tattoo historian/artist Don Ed Hardy: the opening night painting show of Enrique Chagoya. We were lucky enough to have Enrique give us a full explanation of every one of the paintings hanging on the walls of the Paule Anglim gallery, Geary St. Only thus would we have been able to glimpse the subtle, second portrait of William S. Burroughs in Chagoya’s large homage to el hombre invisible– invisible indeed! I would rather have an actual artist give me an explanation of a painting than a critic any day. A transcript of Enrique’s narration is destined to appear on this website; only illness has precluded its appearance by now. His website is

This show runs through Nov. 4, 2000, so try to drop by. With only about a dozen paintings, it could be viewed on a lunch hour.


October 31, Halloween (by far the best holiday of the year– really, workers should get the day off), was a marvelous day, beginning at 3 PM with a free Halloween celebration at the Washington/Hyde playground. We’ve never seen so many children in furry, witchy, or glamorous costumes– and a few parents costumed as well– having so much fun. Of course, the liberal offerings of food, drink and a bountiful supply of desserts, candies and chocolate brought pot-luck-style didn’t hurt. Every child left with a plastic pumpkin full of goodies.

At 6 PM we drove home to North Beach, which has undergone a horrific transformation from a predominantly Italian-Chinese bohemian mecca to a yuppie, dot-con, trendy-restaurant seething hellhole. But somebody– we don’t know who– had organized a trick-or-treat route for local kids along Columbus and Grant Avenues, and participating merchants had put orange signs in their doorways. So, we spent almost two blissful hours slowly walking and collecting a huge bag full of “treats”– enough candy to fuel an entire book production. For once, restaurant workers and merchants seemed genuinely friendly and happy to be seeing so many small trick-or-treating children in fuzzy or scary outfits– maybe children bring out the best in people, sometimes.

One thing for sure: before we know it, the only people who can afford to live in San Francisco will be the filthy rich. The handwriting for artists, Bohemians– creatives, as ad agency lingo terms us– is on the wall. If you don’t already own a house in San Francisco, you may be moving soon. Now crappy, mean, cramped, miniscule studio apartments are renting for $1,500! Soon there will be no shoe-repairmen, janitors, dishwashers, or small shopkeepers– they’ll have to build migrant-worker housing just for the dishwashers alone who are bottom-line necessary for the upscale restaurants increasing daily in San Francisco. Hey, we just lost the former Coffee Gallery bar (the place where Janis Joplin got her start, on Grant Avenue; you can bet Janis couldn’t afford to move to San Francisco today); it’s destined to become– you guessed it– another yuppie restaurant.

It brought particular glee to read in the Wall Street Journal that Candice Carpenter’s stock holdings are now worth something like $890,000 (not including her outstanding loans, ha ha), down from over $100 million a year ago. She’s the vicious, back-stabbing, power-grabbing, man-eating, just plain bitch behind iVillage, once highly touted as the ultimate women’s internet portal. As far as we’re concerned, dot-cons aren’t dying fast enough. Being in San Francisco is like living in a horror movie which we call “Die, Dot-Con, Die!” Dot-cons have taken over like aliens– we wake up and suddenly find ourselves surrounded by Gap-clad Dotzi’s everywhere, taking over artists’ housing and musicians’ studios, like vicious hissing hydra holding Starbucks’ coffee cups and shouting into cell phones while driving super-polluting SUVs.


November is the month containing the shortest day and the longest night. Pagans celebrate this with Samhain (pronounced Sow-en, for some reason), and we unreservedly recommend the November 4 Reclaiming event, “The Spiral Dance,” at San Francisco’s Fort Mason at 7 PM. Rather than wax on rhapsodically, we’ll try to be minimalist: those canny enough to take our hint will not be disappointed. If you don’t know what to wear, wear all black– which works in about 99% of social situations, except maybe a tropical beach. Or you can dress “Ren Faire” (short for “Renaissance Faire”). This event massively celebrates death (as well as birth), and for our unique sensibility, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying social pretext. (Warning: it costs $15, but enterprising souls lacking funds can volunteer their labor to gain admittance.)


A bit of self-promotional news: Los Angeles filmmaker Gary Chong has finished his rough cut (lacking B-roll footage) of “V. Vale, Publisher,” a feature-length documentary featuring (of course) yours truly, along with interviews with SPK’s Graeme Revell, ex-SRL Matt Heckert and other luminaries featured in past RE/Search projects. Chong felt that RE/Search’s influence as a cultural catalyst was in danger of being lost to history. When it is finished, we will be offering it for sale on our website.


Tuesday, November 14, Karen Finley is giving a FREE lecture and performance at Modern Times Bookstore on Valencia near 20th St. We continue to hold the utmost respect for Ms. Finley, who has managed to raise a daughter and weather a divorce while still surviving as a critical, relevant voice in this age of mass media-induced narcolepsy. For those suffering memory loss, Karen was absolutely the FIRST person I ever saw who warned of the danger of real-estate interests to everything we hold dear in this country, well over twelve years ago. (Artists need cheap rents, period, or else no art.)

An anonymous friend of ours holds the rather cynical view that there are only two types of people in the world: artists and money-making zombies– the living dead. He thinks: “No art, no identity,” and that it’s our mission to elude and scathe all the collaborative-filtering, data-mining, parasitical aliens– enemies of the truly creative human race– trying to turn our magical, amazing, poetic universe into a monolithic grid of predictable corporate consumerism where every act leads to an act of consumption. How to fight this? Perhaps by giving as much as we can, consuming as little as possible, and supporting all other artists we like as much as we can. All hail to the Napster Goddess and Her mutant siblings!

Our friend’s parting advice: everything “discardable” can be turned into an art material (except, maybe, for nuclear waste). And try to buy nothing that bears an overdesigned corporate logo and brand. Buy direct from artists and farmers– not from Amazon and Safeway. (Note: did anybody notice that Amazon has reduced their 40% discount on books to 10%, without fanfare.) Work unceasingly to envision and create a different future. And never lose your sense of humor; if humor ain’t present, there ain’t no sense neither. . .


V. Vale

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